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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Human predators driving sharks to the brink of extinction

Human predators driving sharks to the brink of extinction
Wednesday Jan 07, 2009, Kirstie Knowles, New Zealand Herald

Sharks are monsters of the ocean - creatures of myth and movie. Or so they say. In reality, they are the victims of the horror stories, not the perpetrators, as shark populations worldwide decline.

Only one threatened species - the great white shark - is protected in New Zealand. It is ironic that this species, which was portrayed in the Jaws films as a relentless human killer, is now at risk of extinction largely at the hands of humans.

Blue sharks are recognised internationally as a threatened species by the IUCN and are estimated by Australia's national science agency to have declined by 40 per cent in the Tasman Sea over the past decade. Ministry figures also show that from 2002-2007 more than 80 per cent of blue sharks caught in New Zealand had just their fins landed, with their carcasses dumped at sea.

We know that sharks are long-lived, slow-breeding fish that are highly vulnerable to over-fishing. If we allow finning to continue, we are adding to the serious decline in shark populations caused by this wasteful and abhorrent practice.

High-profile chefs and food writers Peta Mathias, Richard Till, Annabel Langbein, Peter Calder and Julie Le Clerc support a campaign to help stop shark finning. The New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council also backs the pledge, and a Colmar-Brunton poll last year found that 83 per cent of New Zealanders support a ban on shark finning.

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