Business Fishers Kill Sharks to Retrieve $1 Hooks in New Zealand, Report Finds

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Documents collected through the Official Information Act in New Zealand show commercial fishermen have killed or injured people in the area sharks to get their fishing gear including hooks which is only $1.

The documents come from government monitors who worked to monitor the country’s commercial longline fleets from 2016 to 2021.

Fishing gear alone poses problems for wildlife, which can become entangled in nets or fishing line.

“Bycatch accounts for about half of global shark catches. Longlines are primarily responsible, but the by-catch in the nets is also important,” according to WWF New Zealand. “In the Pacific Ocean alone, 3.3 million sharks are caught as bycatch on longlines each year. In fact, sharks are the most significant bycatch species in the world’s major deep-sea fisheries. They are also particularly vulnerable to overfishing due to their relatively slow reproductive rate, with several species showing drastic declines recently.”

However, commercial fishermen trying to retrieve their gear pose another threat as observers documented that these workers would kill or maim sharks that accidentally got caught in the gear.

The documents noted that fishermen would throw sharks, twirl them by their tails, or cut their jaws collect fishing hooks, as reported by Plant Based News. After cutting off the sharks’ jaws, the fishermen threw the live sharks back into the water.

Another document noted that a skipper, or person in charge of a fishing boat, ordered crew members to kill themselves Blue Sharks to reduce the population, although the species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN due to overfishing and hunting for shark fins.

“The blue shark is caught worldwide as target and bycatch in commercial and small-scale pelagic longline, purse seine and gillnet fisheries,” reported the IUCN. “Most of the catch is taken as bycatch by industrial pelagic fleets in offshore and offshore waters. It is also caught in coastal longlines, gillnets, trammel nets and sometimes trawls, particularly in areas with narrow continental shelves.”

Experts have called the documents horrific and appalling and are calling for reforms to stop these shark killings.

“While I can understand the frustration of fishermen at accidentally catching an unwanted shark, nothing justifies such an inhumane and callous approach,” said Laws Lawson, managing director of Fisheries Inshore New Zealand.

Activists have written a petition calling for better shark protection and more surveillance of fishing vessels. The petition also demands that fishermen release any bycatch, including sharks, “with as little damage as possible.”

“Sharks that are not intended to be fed should be released into the sea alive and unharmed by cutting the line.” said Geoff Keey, spokesman for the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, also known as Forest & Bird. “Forest & Bird urges the fishing industry to end the practice of killing and maiming unwanted sharks and is calling on the Secretary of Oceans and Fisheries to ban this horrific practice.”

At the time of writing, the petition has just over 30,000 signatures and aims to reach 100,000.