When I walked along the beach on Monday I found a string of dead baby hammerhead sharks washed up on the sand. They’d been finned. The largest was 18 inches.
I believe this is a sphyrna zygaena, a smooth hammerhead: a vulnerable species, and the most common species in New Zealand waters. They’re on the CITES list: the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. You need a CITES export permit to send catch overseas. You don’t need a permit if the catch will be consumed locally. Finning – as in, dumping the still-live finned shark at sea – is illegal in NZ. You have to land the catch with fins attached. You’re still allowed to kill the sharks and sell the fins, though. The rest often goes to cat food manufacturers. Clearly someone isn’t bothered too much about the fishing regulations.
Finning is deplorable. Shark fin soup is available in Auckland, and there’s not enough public outcry about it. A local chef, Kevin Blakeman, is trying to raise awareness and is encouraging diners to ask restaurants that offer shark fin soup to take it off the menu. Wynsome Wong of Hees Garden Seafood Restaurant in Mount Eden replied to his queries about shark fin soup on their menu:
Shark fin soup has been on Chinese menu for hundreds of years. Chinese believed that shark fin is very nutritious and make you live long. People pay high prices for it. Most shark fin in New Zealand is supplied locally. In recent years, with environmental education, sale of shark-fin is diminishing. People only order it for special occasions. We hardly sell any in our day to day trading.
Don’t make it too big an issue. Shark-fin price has become so expensive. I don’t think there are many who can afford it. To my knowledge, most shark-fin sold in Chinese restaurants nowadays is artificial (made from other sea products) and customers are aware of that. I hope my answers are helpful to you.
Demand for local supply – no matter if it’s only for special occasions – in a city of 1.4 million, is what gets you a dozen baby hammerhead sharks pecked at by gulls on the sand, dead for no good reason.
The sale of shark fins in New Zealand should be banned.