Great white sharks to be protected in New Zealand

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Friday, December 1, 2006

The great white shark.
The distribution of the great white shark internationally.

The New Zealand conservation minister, Chris Carter, announced Thursday that it will be illegal in New Zealand to hunt great white sharks in New Zealand waters or in any waters with a boat carrying the New Zealand flag starting in April 2007. The decision is being hailed by conservation groups who claim the sharks would become extinct if hunting continued.

It will be illegal for a great white sharks, also known by the less common name white pointer sharks, to be hunted, possessed, killed or traded within 200 nautical miles of New Zealand according to The Wildlife Act. However if the shark was accidentally caught or killed then no prosecution will occur if they register the incident with authorities. And swimmers in Dunedin, New Zealand will also be protected by the use of shark nets.

The decision mainly comes because New Zealand signed the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

Mr Carter said: "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."

Kirstie Knowles, spokeswoman for Forest and Bird, said: "The sharks had been landed with an undeserved bad rap."

Vaughan Hill wants Mr Carter to reconsider as he is the latest man in New Zealand who has survived a shark attack. Mr Hill wants the reconsideration because of fear of his children being attacked and not because he was once attacked. Mr Hill now only 35% control of one arm with the other been amputated and has scars on his back and front. Mr Hill was 23-years-old when the attack occurred 10 years ago while he was diving for pāua, or Abalone, commercially 100 meters away from Pitt Island, "It was pretty murky water and I felt a big smack ... I was looking into the eye and the jaw of the shark."

"The last thing I thought was that I had to get another mouthful of air to fight it off, but blood overtook me."

Mr Hill said that sharks should only be protected if they are in a "ring-fenced marine reserve." He desribed the great white shark as "the ultimate killing machines [which] should be controlled. I want the beaches protected, and the workplace, which for divers is the sea."

Dr Malcolm Francis, principal scientist of NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research), said: "Despite the sharks' fierce reputation they were mysterious to biologists. Great whites were known to travel huge distances but their breeding and life cycles were not as well documented."

"They are incredible predators, but they are more vulnerable than us," Dr Francis said, "Human attacks are more likely a case of mistaken identity. They let go when they realise we're not their normal prey (fish and seals), but often the initial bite is devastating."

Jim Anderton, minister of fisheries, said: "The white pointer shark was not known to be targeted by commercial fishing but was occasionally taken, unintentionally, as by-catch. 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."

In New Zealand there have only been nine reported cases of shark attacks for 16-years.