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Speech: Shark fishing

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 3 Feb 2021

I rise tonight to speak about the global shark fin trade and inhumane practise of shark finning. For some years I have spoken out about shark finning, its inherent cruelty and the need for Australia to reject this terrible practice in every way we can. Shark finning involves cutting off a shark's fins, often while it is still alive, then throwing it back into the sea, where it is left to die painfully. This is a horrendous and a barbaric practice. The shark suffers hugely, usually dying from blood loss, suffocation or targeted by another predator.

Between 70 and 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. Many of these sharks represent species that are already endangered, and this needless cruelty is putting the animals at risk of extinction. The trade has terrible impacts on shark populations globally. Just last week a study published inĀ NatureĀ found not only that the global population of shark and rays has crashed by more than 70 per cent in the last 50 years, but pointed specifically to overfishing as the driving cause. In countries where shark fin soup is popular, governments, as well as businesses such as hotels and restaurants, have in recent years decided to restrict the sale of certain types of shark fin. Others have taken shark fin off the menu. People's traditions and expectations are changing.

Shark finning is banned in Australian government-managed fisheries, and there are a plethora of state and territory laws that have the effect of banning shark finning, usually by requiring all sharks to be landed with their fins still intact. WA is the hold out on this front, where a loophole is effectively allowing shark finning to continue in all its fisheries. However, shark fin remains on the menu across the country and continues to be consumed in many restaurants. There are reports from time to time that that includes illegal finning, which goes on.

In 2015, while I was a state MP in the New South Wales parliament, I introduced a bill to ban the commercial preparation or sale of shark fin for the purposes of consumption. The 'let's take shark fin off the menu' campaign, in support of my bill, raised the profile of this matter in New South Wales, and has led more and more people to take action and recognise the need for Australia to say no to shark finning once and for all. On this point, I particularly want to acknowledge the conservationists and activists who have been so vocal on this issue and want to see some real change, and it is my pleasure to advise the Senate tonight that I am working on a bill that would ban the import and export of shark fin to and from Australia. I'm doing this work with my colleague Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who is a passionate advocate for our oceans and marine environments.

Perhaps to the surprise of many, the Australian shark fin trade is alive and well. According to the data made available to my office, over the period of 2012 to 2019 at least 240,000 kilograms of shark fin was imported into Australia. Notably, over the same period at least 30,000 kilograms of shark fin was exported from Australia. Collectively these numbers represent millions of sharks that have been killed for this cruel trade, and their fins either leave Australia or enter Australia. Perhaps just as horrific as the cruelty is the fact that if you asked a person on the street, they would probably have no idea that Australia is a partner in such animal brutality. There is no good reason for Australia to continue to participate in this cruel and inhumane trade. Around the world, countries are rejecting the shark fin trade and saying no to this animal cruelty. In 2019, Canada made international headlines when it became the first G20 country to ban the import and export of shark fin. There are also trade bans in place in numerous American states.

I look forward to bringing this debate to the Senate through a private member's bill later this year. We have a real opportunity here to reject animal cruelty, reject the needless slaughter of our precious marine life and affirm our commitment to biodiversity and a healthy planet.


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