By Dave Moran

Love them or hate them, you really can’t get away from them these days – sharks … especially great white sharks.

I can’t recall seeing so many sharks in the pages of our national newspapers as we have seen this summer. I’m sure it sells newspapers – though a picture of a white shark with a heading of ‘coming to a beach near you’ was a little over the top!

I was fortunate enough to have a three metre white pointer swim around my friend’s (Steve Weidman) boat as we were considering a dive at Astrolabe reef off Tauranga. You can’t help but be in awe of these magnificent creatures. It stayed with us for around five minutes, rolling on its side to study us and at one point lifted its head clear of the water. No crunching, munching teeth, just having a good squiz at these things that so rudely disturbed its summer’s day afternoon stroll! Then, as we prepared to anchor, a 2.5 metre mako decided to cruise by!

I couldn’t help thinking, ‘what are their fins worth?’

In Hong Kong and Singapore fins fetch up to US$2,350 per kilogram. That’s a lot of dollars in anyone’s language. So it’s no wonder some New Zealand fishermen are cashing in on the market. It is common knowledge within the fishing industry here that sharks are finned alive and chucked overboard to die a slow death. Some fishing crews are collecting rolls of cash on the side for fins. It’s a tidy little cash sideline running parallel with their quota catch. The threat to sustainable shark fishing has been recognised by the USA and Australian governments where a ban has been placed on the practise of finning sharks that are caught as a by-product of long-line fishing. Sharks now have to be landed in port whole before the fins can be removed. It’s great that some governments and fishing interests realise that to have a healthy, sustainable shark fishing industry in the future, some firm measures must be taken. I wonder how long it will take the New Zealand government to come in line with our closest neighbours? Contact your local MP about this totally unregulated/no quota aspect of commercial fishing. See page 27 ‘Storm in a bowl of sharkfin’.

In this issue we were hoping to try and make some sense out of the ongoing battle to ratify dive practice standards for Australia and New Zealand. The standard 2299 is in three parts: 1. occupational diving operations (ratified); 2. scientific diving; 3. recreational diving and snorkelling.

At the 23rd meeting in November last year, part three was withdrawn after submission by Colin McKenzie of SSI Australia and others. Colin’s main point was that many in the industry were not aware of the proposed standards and need more time to make submissions.

This withdrawal gives the diving industry, especially the training agencies who are most affected, another opportunity to submit their comments, concerns and recommendations so that a new document can be drafted for public discussion.

There is no deadline for the completion of these standards. Some feel that those opposed to the standards are hoping that if the process is stalled long and often enough it may go away.

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) are very relaxed and are not concerned how long it takes to have the standards ratified. If, when the standards are in place OSH see them as a ‘living document’ that will continually change to meet the changes occurring within the industry. If you are concerned do something now – don’t complain later. In the interim, a guideline document of best work practices is in place which, if necessary, will be used in court situations as the guidelines to safe work practices.

For the divers out there just enjoying their sport, the above will be of little interest or concern, but for those training divers or taking out divers for a dive for reward there are some serious issues and responsibilities of which they need to be fully aware.

We will keep you informed in future issues.

Summer – isn’t it great! Take advantage of these long days by enjoying our marine heritage.

Dave Moran


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