Australia to ban shark finning by tuna fishermen

Date: 1/2/2001

Australia has put a temporary ban on shark finning in its tuna fisheries, saying the practice of cutting off shark fins, which are considered an Asian delicacy, may threaten some shark species. Finning, the practice of slicing the fins off live sharks at sea and dumping the animals back into the water to die, has raised the ire of conservationists who see it as cruel and wasteful. The Australian ban would require tuna fishermen, who catch sharks as a by-product of long-line tuna fishing, to land whole sharks at a port before the fins can be removed. The ban is intended to cut down the number of sharks killed under existing by-catch limits imposed on long-line fisheries.

Shark fins are big business in Asia, where the glutinous shark-fin soup is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. The fins fetch up to $2,350 per kg in Singapore and Hong Kong, the world’s largest importer of shark fins. The conservation group WildAid estimates some 100 million sharks, skates and rays are killed every year, threatening several species.

The ban, which follows growing political pressure in Australia and overseas, is a temporary measure to allow the government to study shark sustainability on a fishery-by-fishery basis.

Australia, Britain and the United States have been leading the call to protect sharks and put an end to the unregulated trade in shark products.

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