New illegal shark-finning tactic

By Brendan Moyle 10/11/2013

Historically NZ has banned the finning of live sharks, and looks to be set to eliminate the practice entirely. This is in line with other countries.  The United Nations recommends a ‘fins naturally attached policy’ which would require vessels to keep the whole shark. Interestingly, anti-shark-fin campaigns are also springing up in Chinese social media (like Weibo). The custom is under pressure within as well. It has been banned at official banquets in Hong Kong and some mainland provinces.

Nonetheless, demand remains high enough to keep shark populations under threat.  The point is that it is this specific fishing practice- finning- that is illegal.  Many shark species are still fished legally in New Zealand and elsewhere.  The regulations against finning thus distinguish between catching sharks for human consumption, and finning specifically.  Fins for instance, must be ‘naturally attached’ to the body, as per the United Nations recommendation.

The challenge with any environmental regulation is keeping up with the ingenuity of the criminals.  Costa Rica has identified a method illegal shark-finners are using to comply with the regulations. This leaves a band of skin connecting the fin to the spine, and the rest of the animal is discarded.

Shark Fins via Interpol Press Release
Shark Fins via Interpol Press Release

This has led INTERPOL to issue a Purple Notice to members to alert them to the new practice.  Purple notices are used by INTERPOL  to seek or provide information on modi operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.  This is the second Purple Notice in fisheries to have been issued to member countries.