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Call to Protect Sharks Welcomed

Media Release for Immediate Use

Call to Protect Sharks Welcomed

A call by an Australian shark researcher for New Zealand to catch up with the world and protect the great white shark has been welcomed by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.

Dunedin-based film director Mike Bahana and Australian shark researcher Ian Gordon are in Dunedin preparing to film a new adventure television series aimed at dispelling myths about sharks.

Sue Maturin, the Society's Southern Conservation Officer, said that the great white shark is recognised internationally as being threatened by chronic overfishing, and is now protected in many parts of its range, including California, Florida, the Maldives, Namibia, South Africa and Australia.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the great whites to their list of threatened species in 1996.

"Great white sharks are long-lived, they produce only a few young, and they may not reproduce every year. These characteristics make them particularly vulnerable to human interference by fishing as they simply cannot breed fast enough to recover."

"It is ironic that in New Zealand we make heroes out of hunters killing sharks, but across the Tasman, in New South Wales such people could be sent to jail for 6 months or fined up to $10,000," Sue Maturin said.

"The media and film industry have generally demonised these magnificent animals, making them out as terrifying predators of humans, so it is great to see that a television documentary is now being produced to dispel the myths about sharks," she said.

"The truth is humans are far more dangerous to sharks than sharks are to humans."

In addition to measures to protect great whites Forest and Bird believes New Zealand should look at protecting at-risk species such as basking sharks, which are protected in Britain.

Sue Maturin said "Other species may also be at risk from fishing. Blue and mako sharks are killed in large numbers in the southern bluefin tuna fishery and most are dumped overboard after their fins have been cut off. Juvenile thresher and bronze whalers are also taken in relatively large numbers in inshore gill net fisheries around the North Island and northern coasts of the South Island."

ends

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