Earlier start for shark finning ban
The Government has brought forward a ban on shark finning, but laws against finning blue sharks - one of the most-hunted species - will not come into force until 2016.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Nick Smith today confirmed the ban on shark finning in New Zealand waters from October 1 and tightened the timetable after receiving 45,300 submissions.
"It is now widely recognised that sharks are an important part of the marine ecosystem and that we need to ensure the 113 species of shark in our waters survive," Smith said.
Many of those species were already endangered and seven were under catching-bans.
The practise of cutting the fins off live sharks then dumping their bodies back in the sea is already illegal.
The new ban prohibits catching sharks solely for their fins - they must be caught for use of the whole fish, with the fin harvested from the dead shark as part of that process.
From October 1 the ban will cover a number of popular species, with another tranche of species coming under the ban in October 2015, and blue sharks covered in 2016.
It will still be legal to cut the fin off dead sharks if the rest of their flesh is to be used commercially.
Guy said the reason for the delay with the Blue Shark was because of the shark's migratory patterns and the way they were often caught on tuna lines.
The fishing industry had to be given time to come up with safe ways of releasing a live shark caught on a tuna line, without harming fishermen.
Smith said the ban brought New Zealand into line with international best practice, and ensured sustainable use of those species.
Guy said procedures around enforcing the legislation still had to be worked through.
In many countries a shark cannot be finned until it has been brought back to shore, to ensure live finning does not take place, but commercial fishing operations are able to process large amounts of their hauls out at sea.
The Government also released its National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
The plan contains a range of goals for the conservation and management of sharks to maintain their biodiversity and long-term viability.
New Zealand Shark Alliance spokesman Peter Hardstaff said the Government had gone a long way to ensuring New Zealand practises were in line with other countries.
"I think that the ministers have taken an important step today," he said.
"They've responded to tens of thousands of New Zealanders who had asked for the timetable for the ban on shark finning to be brought forward.
"We're still concerned about the delay re the ban on the blue shark."
Hardstaff said it was a species that needed to be protected, and the incentives for the "wasteful" killing of the shark had to be removed sooner.
Greenpeace spokeswoman Karli Thomas said she welcomed the new laws, but was disappointed about the length of time it would take for them to come into full effect.
"This is great news for the tens of thousands of Kiwis who have been calling for a ban on shark finning," she said.
"However, thousands of blue sharks, which are the species most often caught just for their fins in New Zealand waters, may be killed just for their fins before the law is in place.
"Most blue sharks are caught as by-catch and pulled into the boats alive. Many could be released unharmed.
"To continue finning blue sharks is a senseless waste and there are no excuses for a delay of almost three years."
The new laws mean New Zealand will join about 100 countries, including Australia, the European Union and the United States, to ban shark finning. But environmental groups said the government needed to make sure all loopholes would be closed.
"The best international standards require highly migratory sharks to be brought back to shore in one piece." Thomas said.
"This is the most effective way to make sure fishers comply with the finning ban as they can't hide any evidence of shark finning at sea."
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