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Tuesday, 20 March 2007
Page: 102

Mr Laurie Ferguson asked the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, in writing, on 12 September 2006:

(1)   Is the Minister aware of rising prices for the tail fin of basking sharks.

(2)   Is there a perception of an increasing tendency for the “finning” of sharks.

(3)   Has there been a perceived depletion of shark populations with the advent of industrial fishing.

(4)   Are there currently moves to undermine the reported 2003 decision by European nations to make finning illegal, most clearly in the concept of raising permissible sales of five per cent of total catch in fins to 6.5 per cent.

(5)   Have questions been raised about reported European rules which allow the sale of fins weighing up to five per cent of the catch, due to more recent evidence that the tails normally only constitute two percent of weight.

(6)   Do the US regulations allow only two per cent of the total catch to be fins for possible sales.

(7)   What are the rules relating to Australian Waters.

(8)   Is Australia monitoring European proposals, and are there any lobbying efforts being undertaken by Australia on these matters.

Mr Turnbull (Minister for the Environment and Water Resources) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   There has been an acknowledged increasing demand for shark fin, but it is difficult to determine the extent to which shark finning occurs. International pressure to manage shark finning has certainly increased.

(3)   Scientific evidence has been collected over many years and in many countries which demonstrates depletion of shark populations. In response the international community, through the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, has introduced an International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.

(4)   Some countries/organisations have determined that the amount of fin on board should be no greater than a certain percentage of the carcass weight to ensure the ban on finning is effectively implemented and that carcasses are not discarded at sea. A typical ratio is that the wet weight of fin on board should be no more than 5 per cent of the carcass weight. The appropriate ratio will vary from species to species.

(5)   I am advised that the European Parliament recently rejected a recommendation to increase the allowable fin to carcass ratio from 5% to 6.5% whole weight and instead voted overwhelmingly in favour of a decrease in the ratio to 2% of whole weight.

(6)   The US have set the ratio to be 5 per cent of dressed weight (the weight after the shark has been beheaded and gutted) or about 2.5 percent of the whole weight.

(7)   In Commonwealth managed fisheries, shark finning, as it refers to the on-board removal of a shark’s fins and the discarding of the remainder of the shark at sea, is banned. In state managed fisheries, various fin to carcass weight ratios are used as a means of managing legal take.

(8)   Australia continues to promote management of shark-finning and advocate Australia’s management measures in international organisations, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation and through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.