08 November 2005

New Zealand: Law with teeth saves great white shark

Great white sharks should be off limits to big game fishermen and trophy hunters within the next six months.

Te Atatu MP and Conservation Minister Chris Carter is pushing to have the species protected after reports that overseas anglers are specifically targeting it in New Zealand waters.

It is illegal to fish for the great white in Australia except under special circumstances.

The practice is also banned in the United States and South Africa.

"We want to add it to our own protected species list," Mr Carter says. "People won't be able to export shark jaws or fins and that will effectively the stop trophy hunters.

"This is the first step towards preventing commercial trade."

Little is known about the great white's movements around New Zealand coast.

Many are believed to be at the Chatham Islands and regular sightings were reported off the Dunedin coast during the 1970s and 1980s.

A 265kg, 3m-long specimen was caught at Taranaki in August and a 1520kg pregnant female made national front page news after drowning in a net near Raglan last month.

But Mr Carter says confirmed sightings are rare.

"It's mostly all anecdotal," he says. "They are occasionally seen by fishermen but we really have no idea how many there are."

Mr Carter says representatives of the Smithsonian Institute and National Geographic will visit New Zealand in March as part of a project tracking the progress of great whites through the Chatham Islands.

He hopes to have the fish protected by law by the time they arrive.

"Having it on a list of protected species might also activate some interest from academics and other researchers so that we can learn a bit more about it," he says.

Keen surfer and fisherman Mike Jolly has never seen a great white during his 30 years at Piha.

"There are plenty of sharks when you get around six or seven miles off," Mr Jolly says. "You see lots of bronze whalers, mako and hammerheads.

"But I've never seen a great white and I'd like to keep things that way."

Source: www.stuff.co.nz


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