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Full protection for great white sharks

30th November 2006

Full protection for great white sharks

White pointer sharks will now be fully protected within the 200 nautical miles of New Zealand and from fishing by New Zealand-flagged boats, further a field, in a change in legislation announced by the Ministers of Conservation and Fisheries today.

The species, also known as the great white shark, will be protected under The Wildlife Act meaning it will be illegal to hunt, kill or harm a white pointer shark within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ – 200 nautical mile limit around NZ). It will also be illegal in New Zealand to possess or trade in any part of a white pointer shark.

New Zealand is a signatory to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and has an obligation to prohibit the taking of white pointer sharks.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter said despite the white pointer’s reputation as an apex predator, it was vulnerable to fishing and becoming rarer throughout the world.

“These majestic animals occur naturally in low numbers and, without protection, could be pushed to the brink of extinction. The Wildlife Act provides a strong deterrent against targeting great whites with a $250,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment as a maximum penalty."

The species will be further protected on the high seas (outside the EEZ) under the Fisheries Act where New Zealand-flagged boats will be prohibited from taking white pointer sharks while fishing outside the EEZ.

However, provisions will be created to permit the continued use of shark nets to protect swimmers around beaches in Dunedin, and fishers accidentally catching and killing white pointers will not be prosecuted provided they register the death with authorities.

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said the white pointer shark was not known to be targeted by commercial fishing but was occasionally taken, unintentionally, as by-catch.

Mr Anderton also said they were sometimes targeted by recreational fishers and there was some demand for jaws and teeth as fishing trophies. Others were unintentionally caught in set nets.

“No one wants to see an animal hunted to extinction for the sake of a jaw or a few teeth or to be placed under pressure by accidental catch. Under these new regulations no fisher will be able to profit from taking a white pointer, and any fisher inadvertently catching one will have to return it to the sea, intact, and alive, if possible,” Mr Anderton said.

The protection comes into effect in April 2007.

Background information:

- New Zealand ratified the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in October 2000. As a result of global concern for the conservation of white pointer sharks they were listed on Appendix I to CMS in 2002.

- For those species listed on Appendix I to CMS, New Zealand is obliged to prohibit taking of those species, ‘taking’ means taking, hunting, fishing, capturing, harassing or deliberate killing or attempting to engage in any such conduct.

- White pointer sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) will now be fully protected under the The Wildlife Act 1953 inside NZ’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ – where New Zealand exclusively controls fishing and mineral extraction) from the coast to 200 nautical miles out. The penalties for taking a white pointer will include fines up to $250,000.
 The species will also be protected on the high seas (outside the EEZ) under The Fisheries Act 1996 where NZ-flagged ships will be prohibited from taking white pointer sharks.

 Under the Wildlife Act it will be illegal to hunt, kill, buy, possess, possess for sale, sell or dispose of any part of a white pointer shark.
 White pointer jaws have been reported for selling as much as US$12,000 and teeth for a much as US$1150.
 People who already own jaws or teeth will be allowed to keep them, but a permit will be required from the Department of Conservation to sell those items.
 Under both acts any accidentally caught white pointers will have to be returned to the sea immediately and reported to the relevant Government agency.
 Previously there has been no commercial limit, although the species is not known to be targeted by commercial fishers. However they are occasionally taken as by-catch. Records show 96 have been reported as by-catch from 1989/90 to 2005/06.
 White pointers have been caught in trawl nets, long-lines and set nets.
 Previously there has been a recreational bag limit of 1 white pointer per day in the Southern Region Fishery Management Area (Kaikoura to Jackson Bay) and no recreational limit in the rest of the country. Fisheries (South-East Area Amateur Fishing) Regulations 1986 (reg 3A) and the Fisheries (Southland and Sub-Antarctic Area Amateur Fishing) Regulations 1991 (reg 4)

 The species is also found across the Pacific Ocean, around North and South America, parts of Africa and Europe, including the Mediterranean Sea. Individuals range widely, with a radio-tagged shark travelling from the Chatham Islands to the tropics.

 Provision will be made for the Dunedin City Council beach-netting programme will be able to continue. The council has had nets from December to February off St Kilda, St Clair and Brighton beaches since 1969, after fatal attacks around Otago Peninsula in the 1960s. Two 100 metre long nets are set off each beach. No white pointers have been caught since 1972.

 Records show that NZ has one of the lowest shark attack rates in the world, on average only two a year since 1990. The last recorded fatality was off Te Kaha in 1976.

 Earlier this year the tiny community of Halfmoon Bay in Stewart Island banned fishing of white pointer sharks in the Paterson Inlet Mataitai Reserve. This was thought to be the first formal protection for the species in New Zealand.

ENDS

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