What is shark finning?
Shark finning refers to the cutting of fins off a shark’s body. When the fins are cut off, the shark, whether dead or alive, is commonly discarded back into the water. The shark dies slowly and painfully, usually of asphyxiation or through blood loss.
Shark fins are almost exclusively used for shark fin soup. Shark Fin Soup is becoming deeply unpopular among younger generations both here and in Asia. It is time to put an end to the inhumane use of sharks once and for all. More and more young people are turning away from shark fin soup, both here and in Asia. Nonetheless, shark fin soup, usually from imported sources, is still regularly served in restaurants throughout Sydney.
The possession, sale and trade of shark fins is prohibited in Hawaii, New York, California, Washington State and Illinois in the United States and countries such as French Polynesia, Egypt and the Bahamas have bans as well. NSW can be the first state in Australia to ban the sale of shark fin for consumption.
Shark Fin is also used in some dietary supplements but there is little evidence of their sustainability or their effectiveness.
Does shark finning happen in New South Wales?
Live shark finning, the practice of cutting the fins from live sharks and dumping the body, is illegal in all jurisdictions in Australia. However, the legislation differs between various states, the territories and the Commonwealth; in Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian waters, all sharks caught must be brought back to port (‘landed’) with their fins attached to their bodies.
In New South Wales, numerous shark species are caught in the NSW Ocean Trap and Line Fishery and the Ocean Trawl Fishery. Shark fins can be harvested from sharks that have been landed and brought to shore. Usually, shark meat is sold as ‘flake’ and the fins removed for sale. It is believed most Australian shark fin is exported. Estimates suggest that in 2006-07m 570 tonnes of shark fin was exported from Australia, out of a world total of (probably) 10,000 tonnes.
But many restaurants in New South Wales still serve shark fins, usually from imports. Shark fin trade data, specific to NSW, is not publicly available. Due to the opaque nature of the supply chain of shark fins, it is highly likely that most shark fin in the world is procured from live shark finning.
Why is Shark Conservation Important?
There are serious questions about how sustainable shark fishing can be. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 143 shark species (where there is sufficient data to determine conservation status) are at high risk of extinction either now or in the near future. That’s over 55% of shark species.
The Pew Environment Group, a Washington-based NGO , says 30 per cent of shark species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction, while the status of 47 per cent is not properly known.The number of sharks killed each year in commercial fisheries is estimated at 100 million.
It is estimated that between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed annually to satisfy demand for the shark-fin “delicacy”. Shark habitats are under increasing stress all around the world, not only due to over-fishing but also from the effects of global warming on both sharks themselves and their food chain.180 species of sharks can be found in Australian waters, of which about 70 are thought to be endemic. The Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, is a particular hotspot of shark diversity in Australia with more than 50 species.
However, due to declining numbers, 9 species are now listed as ‘threatened’ under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This has consequences for the wider marine environment: Australian coral reefs, such as the Great Barrier Reef, are under threat from a shrinking shark population – due the the knock-on effects on the ocean food chain.
What are the Greens doing about it?
NSW does not have the ability to ban the import of shark fins. This has to be done at a Federal level. But there is a way we can make NSW Fin Free.
The ‘Food Amendment (Shark Fin Prohibition) Bill 2014 represents an opportunity to take action against shark finning at a state level. This bill would prohibit the commercial preparation of shark fin soups and other products by restaurants. NSW could be the first state in Australia to go ‘Fin Free’.
Specifically, bill would make it an offence under the Food Act to ‘prepare or cause to be prepared, any shark fin or shark fin derivative for consumption for commercial purposes’. It allows for a six month window for restaurants to transition away from shark fin foods.
Is this the solution?
The Greens bill would go a long way to stopping restaurants from serving shark fin soup. But this is a state based step, the ultimate goal being a ban on shark fin imports.
In NSW, the removal of the shark fin is allowed after the shark is landed. This means that shark finning is illegal and the NSW industry does not practice shark finning. But as the New South Wales Government cannot differentiate between Australian and imported shark fin, we must do something. Australian shark fishers would still be able to sell their product overseas, where it is presumed the vast majority of shark fin ends up.
The best option to ban imported shark fins would be an amendment to the Customs Act 1901 at the Federal level. But in the absence of Federal action, NSW can be the first state to go Fin Free.
At the Federal Level, Senator Penny Wright has been campaigning to introduce uniform federal laws regarding shark fin harvesting in Australia, enhancing record keeping of imports and ultimately a federal ban on the trade and possession of shark fins.
What Else Can You Do?
Whilst it is possible to utilise shark fins that have been removed from sharks that have already been landed, there are too many questions about the supply chain of shark fins in NSW to risk allowing shark fins to be sold. There are also significant questions about the sustainability of fishing sharks.
We can also make hold restaurants accountable for the shark fin soup that they sell. We can spread the word about the problems with consuming shark fin soup and try and reduce the demand for shark fin soup by not purchasing it as well as putting pressure on restaurants that continue to serve it. If all restaurants in New South Wales pledged to be shark fin free this would set the standard for restaurants across Australia to follow.
What is Happening Globally?
There are many examples of celebrities, restaurants and companies going shark fin free. Airlines such as Emirates, Garuda Indonesia and Korean Air will no longer carry shark fin. High profile chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali have pledged never to use shark fin. Spain’s largest hotel group has recently removed it from their global menu.
The possession, sale and trade of shark fins is prohibited in Hawaii, California, Washington State and Illinois in the United States and countries such as French Polynesia, Egypt and the Bahamas have bans as well. NSW can be the first state in Australia to ban the sale of shark fin for consumption.
Let’s Take Shark Fin Off the Menu – Fin Free NSW
- Sign our petition calling on the Premier to pass the ‘Food Amendment (Shark Fin Prohibition) Bill 2014 ‘ and ask your local MP to commit to voting for it.
- Print out our Shark Fin Petition and ask your friends, family and colleagues to sign it and send it back to us.
- Ask your local restaurant if they serve shark fin soup or any other food involving shark fin. If they do: tell them the facts about shark finning.
- Ask your local restaurant to proudly display that they are ‘Shark Fin Free’ using our stickers. Contact us to ask for them.
- Download our information flyer.
 Fisheries Management Act 1994, Section 8 Notification – Fishing Closure: Prohibition of Shark Finning. 26 August 2011.
 Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture 2009 Shark Assessment Report for the Australian National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks – 2010.
 D. Chapman, Global Catches, Exploitation Rates and Rebuilding Options for Sharks, Marine Policy March 2013.