Proposal to ‘fully protect’ Basking Sharks great news but still places them at risk of illegal shark finning

23 Jun 2010

Government agencies have recently finished public consultation on raising the protection level of threatened Basking Sharks.

However although our Basking Shark may soon receive our highest legal protection, they can still be ‘accidentally’ caught by fishers looking to sell their fins.

These large, slow-moving, filter feeders are highly prized for their large oily livers and their large fins –  with some fins fetching up to US$57,000 on international markets 

New Zealand has 112 species of shark swimming in our waters, however only one species – the great white shark – has full legal protection.

Through May and June this year, the Ministry of Fisheries and Department of Conservation sought submissions on raising the protection status* of this shark species - something that has been applauded by Forest & Bird.

However, we believe that raising their protection status only partially protects this vulnerable species.

Despite legal protection of great white sharks, they are still occasionally caught accidentally in fishing nets and may be finned illegally.

In NZ, fishers are legally allowed to strip the fins of dead sharks (apart from great white sharks) and dump their bodies, making identification onshore difficult.

Those fishers looking to bend the rules may still profit from the highly lucrative trade of selling basking shark fins in the knowledge that they're unlikely to be caught. 

The practise of finning is banned in several countries, including Australia, the EU, the USA, South Africa, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil.Instead, they require that sharks fins remain attached to the body of the shark.

In doing so they help improve shark identification and research plus discourage the practise of shark finning and prevent the illegal finning of protected species.

To view our submission, see here.

To find out more about shark finning in New Zealand see here

• This will place them under the Wildlife Act 1953 and Fisheries Act 1996