Submitted on 13 September 2022: Read the NZCA's submission on the draft National Plan of Action for the conservation management of sharks in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Legislative Basis for the New Zealand Conservation Authority submission

  1. The New Zealand Conservation Authority / Te Pou Atawhai Taiao o Aotearoa (Authority/ NZCA) was established under the Conservation Act 1987 (Act), with members appointed by the Minister of Conservation. It is an independent statutory body with a range of functions, but primarily acts as an independent conservation advisor to the Minister and the Director-General of Conservation.
  1. The Authority has a role as an objective advocate on matters of national significance and interest in the conservation arena and to provide high quality independent advice to the Department of Conservation (Department) on its strategic direction and
  2. The Authority has a range of powers and functions, under the Act, as well as under other conservation related legislation. Under section 6C(2)(c) of the Act, the NZCA has the power to “advocate the interests of the Authority at any public forum or in any statutory planning process.”
  3. Following the logic of the above powers and functions, the Authority makes its submission on the future management and conservation of Sharks in Aotearoa New

NZCA Submission

  1. The NZCA submission is based on its analysis of:
    • National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks 2022: Draft for Consultation (NPOA-Sharks / Plan)
    • Fisheries New Zealand “Review of NPOA Sharks 2013: Progress against Objectives and Actions”
  1. The NZCA considers that an effective National Plan of Action to advance the conservation and management of sharks is very We believe the New Zealand public and the sharks in our seas deserve more than that delivered by the 2013 Plan. We hope that this plan will achieve more than the 2013 plan (namely, a ban on shark finning and including Aotearoa New Zealand as a signatory on migratory species).

The NZCA stresses the importance of transparent process

  1. It is important that there is a transparent process for the development of a national policy such as this, and that the development of the NPOA-Sharks has drawn on a wide range of informed views, research, and The NZCA notes, however, that the authors of the plan are not stated and the membership of the Shark Advisory Group, apparently key advisors for this report, is not clear, apart from reference to representatives from government agencies, environmental groups, commercial and recreational fishers, and Te Ohu Kaimoana.
  2. The NZCA also notes that industry is part of the Shark Advisory Group, however, scientists (considered primary service providers) are excluded from the process. The NZCA regards this as inappropriate if the best available science is to be informing this
  3. The NZCA also find it inappropriate that the NPOA-Sharks has taken credit for supporting research, such as student research and science led projects, that did not receive any direct funding from MPI, DOC or industry, but were conducted because of the commitment of the individual scientists.
  4. The NZCA submits that the Wildlife Act 1953 must be added to the Acts listed on page 5, bullet point 4, noting that the Wildlife Act 1953 Schedule 7A includes the protected shark species listed in Table 2, page 12.

The NZCA has identified key issues of insufficient objectives, measures, resourcing, and data

  1. The aspirations in the NPOA-Sharks are generally to be commended, but the NZCA is concerned that some objectives are weak; the Plan does not contain clear, enforceable, and effective measures; and, that there will be insufficient resourcing for the objectives of the Plan to be realised and the performance measures achieved.
  2. There is currently very little to no funding for research and management actions for protected species and, in most cases, also for the species in the Quota Management System. The data are severely lacking, even for basic information about stocks, ecology, biology, and reproduction. The NPOA-Sharks does not indicate where the substantial funding that will be required will be sourced from, and how new information will be taken up and applied to the management and conservation of sharks in the New Zealand
  3. Some of the species in the New Zealand zone are part of global stocks and we have a particular responsibility for our part of their distributions. This is particularly the case for basking sharks, for example, which have been found to only pup in New Zealand
  4. The NZCA is strongly concerned by the lack of data about the stocks of shark species in New Zealand. Even those, such as Makos, that pup in New Zealand waters, have taonga status for some iwi, and a high profile for the general public, have no data on the stocks in New Zealand (refer Appendix 1).
  5. The NZCA submits that the state of knowledge of biological characteristics and quantitative data on stock status are inadequate and considers that there is an urgent need to address such data gaps; this needs to be a priority activity for MPI, Fisheries, and DOC.
  6. Difficulty in ageing sharks notwithstanding, there are many other biological traits that should be recorded to estimate population health that have not been mentioned in the Plan (sex, length, and weight would be a bare minimum). The NZCA finds that comparing frequency of these measures in ‘virgin’ or early fishing phases with those in fished populations would be indicative of fishery impacts and changes in population structure, and the NZCA submits that such an action must be included as an
  7. Research is also needed to fill knowledge gaps in life-history characteristics, as these are important characteristics to inform management The NZCA submits that the need for this additional information, and the underpinning research, needs to be articulated more clearly as Performance Measures in Objectives 1.4 and 7.2.
  8. The NZCA submits that a Performance Measure to reduce the knowledge gaps documented in Appendix 1 is required, such as “reducing these gaps by X% over Y years”, noting that gradual improvement is not sufficient in a vulnerable group that is prone to overfishing and slow recovery.
  9. The NZCA notes that, despite the many existing risk assessments and recommendations from these, that have not been translated into research programmes or management decisions, the NPOA-Sharks is proposing further risk assessments be undertaken. The NZCA considers that there is a need for gathering of data, based on observations, measurements, and ground truthing, rather than further risk assessments that are not actioned.
  10. A number of undescribed species are known, especially among the spiny dogfishes and deep-water sharks. The description and characterisation of these species should be a priority, as well as development of identification guides accessible to fishers and observers. The NZCA submits that ‘utilise taxonomic studies to confirm species composition and distribution’ be added as an Objective to Goal In relation to this, the NZCA submits that stronger wording than “is supported” is required in Objective 7.2 Performance Measure 5.1
  11. Currently, Objective 1.4 implies the stock is in good shape if it is at or below Maximum Sustainable Yield (BMSY), however, for a group of fishes that reproduce/recover slowly, the target should be significantly less than BMSY to ensure sustainability. The NZCA submits that Objective 1.4 should have a percentage of BMSY The percentage BMSY target will vary depending on the species and its life history, but there should be a requirement for all shark populations and stocks to be at or above BMSY and no population should be trending down towards BMSY.
  12. An improved measure of mortality is needed and could be gained by requiring Fishers to distinguish between sharks released alive or dead/near-dead. Presently, “Discarded” can be dead or alive when returned to the ocean. The NZCA submits that the NPOA- Sharks should address this change in reporting requirements by adding a Performance Measure to Objective 3.3 to update the terminology so that “Discarded” is only dead or near-dead, and “Released” is alive and energetic.
  13. The NZCA find that Objective 52 and its Performance Measure3 are far too weak to be effective. For protected species, an objective that only requires long-term viability is extremely weak, as it allows for significant adverse effects before action is required. We would never set such a weak objective for protected species on land. In addition, the performance measure allows no concrete action to be taken where a population trend is decreasing, instead indicating that more research is sufficient. This is inadequate,particularly given the pressure that MPI will be put under from commercial fisheries to focus on research in preference to taking action to reduce catch limits.
  1. The NZCA submits that Objective 5 should be that

mortality of protected sharks from fishing is reducing and does not impact short or long-term viability

and its performance measure should be that

changes are made to fishing (methods or catch limits) that are likely to ensure a reduction in mortality of protected species.

1 “Research into the identification and description of new species, and efforts to understand their distribution, is supported

2 “Mortality of protected sharks from fishing is at or below a level that allows for their long-term viability”.

3 “Specific research and/or management actions are taken where a population trend is decreasing”.

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