A ban on the finning of all shark species within New Zealand waters will take effect from 1 October this year, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced today.
“Implementing this ban has happened much faster than originally proposed. It reinforces New Zealand’s strong international reputation for sustainability and protecting our natural environment,” Dr Smith says.
The Ministers released a revised National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks) earlier this year, which included a commitment to phase in the ban on shark finning in New Zealand by October 2016 at the latest. A first tranche of shark species was to be covered by the ban from 1 October 2014, a second tranche from 1 October 2015, and only the highly migratory blue sharks was to be left until 1 October 2016.
“However, consultation with fisheries stakeholders and the public showed that there was widespread support to implement a ban as quickly as possible,” Mr Guy says.
“I’m very pleased that the industry has risen to that challenge, and worked with the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Department of Conservation, and other stakeholders to look at options for a more rapid implementation of the ban.”
Oceanic whitetip shark
It is already an offence under the Animal Welfare Act to remove the fin from a shark and return it to the sea alive. The ban will also make it illegal to catch a shark, kill it, remove its fins and dump the carcass at sea.
“Sharks play an important role in our marine ecosystems, and we need to ensure the appropriate management of the 113 species of shark in our waters. This ban builds on New Zealand’s proud history of balancing conservation and the prudent use of resources to ensure their long-term sustainability,” Dr Smith says.
“This approach will effectively eliminate finning in New Zealand and at the same time, it shouldn’t have undue impacts on fishing operations where shark finning doesn’t occur and sharks are fully utilised,” Mr Guy says.
A combination of ‘fins attached’ and ‘weight ratio’ methods will be used to implement the ban.
“The ‘ratio method’ is most appropriate for species where there is already full utilisation, or clear opportunities for increased utilisation. These are all quota species, and the ratio approach will be supported by the comprehensive reporting arrangements as part of the Quota Management System (QMS).”
“The ‘fins attached’ approach will be applied to non-quota species, for which the monitoring is less stringent, and for two species of shark that are managed within the quota management system.
“Amendments will also be made to allow fishers to return dead, unwanted sharks to the sea, while ensuring that they are reported and counted against the total allowable catch for the species and against a fisher’s annual catch entitlement. This is an important step to ensure we continue to receive good data on shark catches.”
There will be ongoing monitoring by MPI of the ban with a view to refining management arrangements over time if required.