By Tracy Brown (Sea Shepherd Auckland Coordinator)

Blue SharkBlue Shark - photo: Mike BhanaIt’s a strange dichotomy when a nation needs legislative change for the environment but is offered a proposal that is less than the ideal protection of the apex predators that maintain that very environment. But if the proposal is an advancement of what was offered a year ago, and a vast improvement of the existing 2008 legislation, then the proposal to secure the elimination of shark finning in New Zealand waters is a good idea. The New Zealand government has begun a public consultation process that is intended to eliminate shark finning over several years – and we all are now welcome to make submissions to legislate for shark protection (at least from finning anyway). Submissions end on December 8 and we want protection for sharks as soon as possible. 

New Zealand’s statistics are less than desirable – the top exporter of dried shark fin to the United States of America, being one of the top twenty countries for killing sharks and exporting shark fin globally, and a major exporter of shark fin to Hong Kong. New Zealand can, and should learn, from Pacific Island neighbours who have already legislated for shark protection (Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Palau, Tokelau, Marshall Islands, and French Polynesia) and be part of the growing number of countries that understand the critical role sharks play in the management of healthy oceans.

Simon Ager was manager of the Brigitte Bardot during Operation Requiem in 2012, and he astutely believes that all countries have a moral obligation to protect the marine environment, and in particular, sharks. The short term gains of shark finning are at the expense of long term plans to maintain the wealth of marine ecosystems. And no country can afford a dead ocean. Concerns over large numbers of keystone predators from oceanic ecosystems have long been documented and effective protection that does not endanger the survival of sharks is crucial.

New Zealand is on the cusp of joining the 98 countries in the world to protect shark populations by eliminating shark finning. The government has issued a proposal that, if efficiently administered and enforced, could halt the 160 tonnes of fin being taken out of New Zealand waters last year. This proposal could, and should, protect the Blue, Porbeagle and Mako sharks that are currently the top three species finned in New Zealand which incidentally, are also on the United Nations Red List as being Vulnerable in status or Near Threatened. This proposal would ensure that shark species will be researched to assess population biomass and habitat because the current population status of most New Zealand sharks is data deficient.

But at the moment the document is just a plan. A plan that needs a strong voice to activate and enshrine into legislation – through your submissions the government will receive a clear message to conserve, protect, and defend the sharks that traverse New Zealand waters.

What can be done before December 8, 2013 – when the submission phase closes?

  1. Make a submission
  2. Share widely

Be proud of the fact that you can make a difference at policy level legislation in New Zealand that, if successful, will secure a better future for New Zealand sharks. Thank you.