In defence of shark fishing

Last updated 11:02 15/05/2014

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My fight against shark finning in NZ Why don't we save the sharks, too?

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The Stuff Nation piece by Acacia Murray - Why don't we save the sharks, too? - and the majority of responses to it accurately reflect the public perception of the shark finning issue.

The facts are rather different. 

All marine species taken commercially in New Zealand waters are harvested in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, which outlawed shark finning long before it became a cause celebre, and under the Quota Management System (QMS).

The QMS, frequently reviewed and scientifically regulated, can invoke Draconian penalties to compel compliance with the rules and to ensure the ongoing level of abundance of those species. Any decline triggers corrective action, drastic if necessary, to reduce the take.

Any talk of the extinction of species is therefore nonsense.

The Ministry for Primary Industries, scientists and fishing industry delegates spend much time, effort and money ensuring sustainability.

Several species of sharks are caught for fillet for the popular fish and chip trade. Like farm animals, they are killed humanely and processed quickly to ensure a quality product, with the fins being a valuable and sustainable by-product.

Any sharks taken solely for fins must, by law, be handled and accounted for in the same way. However, sensational media coverage has caused carriers to refuse to carry shark fins. So, a perfectly legal product, correctly and sustainably gathered, languishes in frozen storage, causing losses to fishermen, processors and this country.

Eventually, it will pass its use-by date and be dumped. It would be equally stupid to ban the trade in lamb offals.

One of the most common video clips on TV is of live, finless sharks being kicked overboard, with the implication that it is being done here. My fin fish colleagues point out that no flags, names or registration numbers are visible, so it could be any nationality, anywhere in the world.

Few fishermen have the time and ability to write in their defence, so I have taken this on in my retirement.

R Lea Clough is a retired paua and rock lobster diver.

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