ON Thursday, June 14, a 1.8m critically endangered Grey Nurse shark was found brutally killed; its fins hacked from its body which was then dumped near the break wall at Stockton Beach, Newcastle.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) officers fortunately apprehended the offender at the scene, who was found with a bag filled with shark fin.
Sea Shepherd spokesperson Allyson Jennings said: “This is a sickening act by someone who was only out for financial gain, has no respect for Fisheries regulations and the marine environment.
“Sharks play an important role in maintaining healthy marine environments and the loss of this individual in an already depleted population is unacceptable.”
The east coast Grey Nurse shark population was drastically depleted up till the 1960s-70s by game fishing tournaments and poorly regulated fishing practices. By the early 80s, they were on the brink of extinction. These sharks are long lived, sexually mature late in life, have a low breeding rate and grow slowly. As a result, numbers are nowhere near the previous population numbers.
Grey Nurse sharks were declared critically endangered and protected in NSW in 1984, the first shark protected anywhere in the world. They were federally protected in Australia in 1996. There are approximately only 1300 individuals making up the east coast population.
“The maximum penalty for harming, possessing and selling an endangered species is $220,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment in NSW. The person responsible for this barbaric offence must be sentenced with the maximum penalty.
“The NSW Government and the legal system must enforce the regulations to send a strong message that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated,” Ms Jennings added.
Ms Jennings added: “Sea Shepherd has long campaigned for the respect and protection of marine life and especially keystone apex predators.”
Shark finning is considered to be the one of the key contributing factors to the demise of shark populations around the world, with populations of some species declining as much as 90 percent. The fins are removed while the shark is alive and as most sharks need to swim in order to breathe, the shark slowly dies from drowning.
Fins are taken regardless of the age, size and gender of the shark. The multi-billion dollar industry is widespread and poorly regulated by governments, fisheries and transport companies. Primarily, shark fin is used for soup which in Asian culture symbolises wealth and success.
Recently, our Sea Shepherd Asia Director Gary Stokes, assisted in busting illegal shipments of shark fin which had arrived in Hong Kong on a commercial flight from Singapore.