Response to the Australian Marine Conservation Society save our sharks campaign

The Australian Marine Conservation Society has laun​ched the ‘save our sharks’ campaign.

Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources responded with a letter outlining the Australian Government’s strong position to eliminate shark finning domestically and internationally. The letter is published below for the information of the public.

Letter from Senator Ann Ruston

Dear Mr Kindleysides

I refer to a campaign initiated ​by the Australian Marine Conservation Society, directed to the Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, about Australia’s involvement in the shark fin trade. I am responding to this campaign, as I am the assistant minister responsible for the matter it raises.

The Australian Government recognises the unique and important role sharks play in the marine ecosystem and the impact global fisheries catch has on shark populations. That is why we have worked to improve fisheries management both domestically and internationally and support measures that strengthen protections in the international trade of shark products.  

Australia has a range of formal management arrangements in place for all target shark fisheries to ensure the sustainability of these populations. The government takes the issue of shark finning – removing the fins and discarding the rest of the body at sea – seriously and has prohibited shark finning in Commonwealth fisheries. The environmental performance of fisheries management arrangements for all fisheries that export fish product from Australia are independently assessed by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy against the Guidelines for the Ecologically Sustainable Management of Fisheries - 2nd Edition.

Australia, as a nation that exports over two thirds of our agricultural products, relies on a robust set of international trade rules to ensure that arbitrary trade measures are not applied. Australia needs to ensure that any measures put in place are in accordance with our World Trade Organization obligations, which include a requirement not to unilaterally ban imports unless very specific exceptions apply.

The Australian Government is focused on providing the right framework for the sustainable management of sharks worldwide. Australia strongly supports international measures to ban the practice of shark finning and has for many years been one of the most active proponents of effective bans on at-sea finning in regional fisheries management organisations. Several of these organisations have implemented shark conservation and management measures that bind member states at a domestic and international level.

Strict import and export controls are applied to the trade of any species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including shark species under pressure from international trade in their fins. Australia continues to support listings of threatened shark species under CITES, and implement appropriate and complementary domestic controls for the harvesting of these species.

I am confident that the combination of our strong domestic policy, international efforts and strict import and export controls provides a balanced approach to addressing this issue.

For the information of the Australian public, I have asked the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to place this information on the department’s website.

Thank you again for bringing your concerns to the Australian Government’s attention.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Anne Ruston