Australia drafts protection plan - with teeth
SAPA ~~~ AFP
26th May 2004
Australians have spent a great deal of time devising ways to protect themselves from sharks, but on Wednesday the government unveiled a major plan aimed at saving sharks from Australians.
Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald launched the National Shark Plan in a bid to reduce the number of sharks caught in error by the fishing industry and to highlight the importance of the marine predators in the ocean food chain.
The campaign will notably involve better monitoring of shark populations and co-operation with neighbouring countries in keeping the shark catch at sustainable levels, Macdonald said.
"As well as providing a more secure base for the long-term management and conservation of Australia's shark populations, (the plan) will help raise awareness, here and overseas, of our commitment to sustainable resource use," he said.
Australian ships take about 8 500 tons of shark a year, a catch which together with the banned practice of "finning" - removing a shark's fin and then leaving the fish to drown in the water - has contributed to a sharp fall in shark numbers in recent years.
The practice is driven by demand from the lucrative Chinese market, where shark fin is considered a delicacy.
The conservation group Humane Society International welcomed the Australian plan.
"It is estimated a staggering 50 000 sharks are caught on Australian longlines every year, when they are supposed to be catching tuna and billfish," said a group spokesperson, Nicola Beynon.
Longline fishing involves setting a single line often dozens of kilometres long and fitted with thousands of baited hooks.
Beynon said it was essential the government plan target the taking of sharks by trawlers and tuna longliners.
"The new shark plan must see techniques developed to ensure these fisheries are more selective in targeting the species they have quotas for." -