The Government is proposing to bring forward a total ban on the finning of dead sharks by two years in response to widespread public concern about the gruesome practice.
I'm very pleased that the industry has risen to that challenge, and worked with the Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation and other stakeholders to look at options for a more rapid implementation of the ban”Nick Smith, NZ Conservation Minister
Conservation Minister Nick Smith originally planned to ban finning of all shark species, except blue sharks, by October 2015.
The ban on removing blue sharks' fins would have begun in October 2016.
This led to an outcry by conservation groups because blue shark was the species most affected by the finning practice.
Dr Smith said it was now possible to introduce a total ban in October this year.
"Ending shark finning was always going to present practical challenges for the fishing industry, and there was a need to give them time to adjust.
"I'm very pleased that the industry has risen to that challenge, and worked with the Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation and other stakeholders to look at options for a more rapid implementation of the ban."
A consultation period on the change runs from May 22 to June 22, with a final decision to follow shortly after.
Finning of live sharks was outlawed in New Zealand in 2009, but it was still legal to remove the fins from dead sharks and throw away the carcass - though the entire weight of the shark was still included in a fishing boat's quota.
The new regime requires fishing companies to release sharks alive or bring them ashore with fins attached for processing.
During the consultation process, the fishing industry expressed concern about the risks of releasing a blue shark alive.
Between 50,000 and 150,000 blue sharks were believed to be killed in New Zealand waters every year, many of them as by-catch in tuna long-lines.
They were included in New Zealand's quota management system, but total population numbers were not known because a stock assessment has never taken place.
New Zealand is among the world's top 20 exports of shark fins, most of which are sent to Asia to be made into a popular delicacy or traditional medicines. But public discontent about the fishing method has continued to grow, and some businesses such as Air New Zealand have responded by refusing to transport shark fin exports.
Only a handful of New Zealand restaurants continued to sell shark-fin soup.
Around 45,000 submissions were received on the National Plan of Actions for sharks, which set out fishing quotas and population management for the 113 species in New Zealand waters.
Photo © NOAA