Attack victims plead with UN for shark conservation | Pacific Beat

Attack victims plead with UN for shark conservation

Attack victims plead with UN for shark conservation

Updated 15 February 2012, 13:11 AEDT

They are an unlikely group to be calling for the protection of sharks, but at a United Nations conference in New York nine shark attack victims have called on delegates to act to protect the species from over-fishing.

Presenter: Alison Caldwell

Speaker: Paul de Gelder, able seaman with Australian Navy; Matt Rand, Pew Environment Group's director of global shark conservation; Michael Gardner, president of Queensland Seafood Industry Association

ALISON CALDWELL: Navy diver Paul De Gelder was taking part in a training exercise in the water off Garden Island near Woolloomooloo in February last year when he was attacked by a what was thought to be a bull shark. He punched the three-metre shark away and was rushed to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. His right hand and leg were amputated and replaced with prosthetics.

Now Paul de Gelder has become a sort of UN ambassador for sharks. Today he's in New York where he's lobbying the UN to help protect his attacker.

PAUL DE GELDER: I really, really do not believe that we as a people have the right to drive this beautiful animal to the brink of extinction.

ALISON CALDWELL: Paul de Gelder is one of nine shark attack survivors from around the world who are pressing the UN to act against the over fishing of sharks. They've been brought together by the Pew Environment Group which is calling for countries to stop fishing sharks that are threatened with extinction, stop the practice of finning and better manage fisheries to ensure long-term sustainability. An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year to support the fin trade alone, driven by the demand for shark fin soup. Fishermen slice off shark fins and dump the animal back in the ocean where it drowns or bleeds to death.

Matt Rand is Pew's director of global shark conservation.

MATT RAND: We need to make sure that it's done in a scientific manner, that it's not wiping the species off the planet, and unfortunately right now we don't have that. We don't have scientific management plans in place for sharks. There are no limits on the numbers that can be caught.

ALISON CALDWELL: In an interview with News Radio, able seaman Paul de Gelder says an international scientific management plan is urgently required to protect sharks.

PAUL DE GELDER: It's just a better way to continue the species and allow them to recoup and continue in our world, instead of wiping them off the face of the earth.

ALISON CALDWELL: Shark meat or flake is a best seller in fish markets in Australia.

Michael Gardner is the president of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association. He says limits are imposed on shark fisheries, state by state.

MICHAEL GARDNER: There's a 600 tonne TAC (total allowable catch) on the East Coast shark fishery, and that was implemented early last year, following development of the plan for the shark fishery, and that was an agreement reached by Fisheries Queensland and the Commonwealth Environmental Department as being a sustainable total allowable catch.

ALISON CALDWELL: And what about this practice of finning? Does that happen as far as you know off Queensland?

MICHAEL GARDNER: Well, certainly that's a practice that is totally unacceptable. The law states that if you have fins, they have to meet the number of trunks. So the practice, which in the past essentially was said to be done was to take the fins off and let the carcasses sink - totally unacceptable, unlawful, and I would like to think it doesn't happen at all.

ALISON CALDWELL: Do you think sharks are endangered off Queensland?

MICHAEL GARDNER: When you talk to the fisherman, the answer to that is no. Essentially, we believe the shark fishery management at the moment is appropriate at this point. There's a responsibility there on everybody's behalf to ensure that we have sustainable fisheries that support our communities and support our population into the future.

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