No shark fin 'scoop' as locals deny danger

THE local fishing industry has denied claims that they are endangering populations of threatened shark species by overfishing in the area.

A report in a newspaper on Sunday stated than an increasing number of commercial fishing boats have began operating out of Coffs Harbour during recent months using legal fishing practices to catch large numbers of sharks.

The article said the dramatic increase in shark fishing was fuelled by the lucrative shark fin market, and that long-line fishing methods used by shark fishermen are believed to be responsible for indiscriminate shark catches.

A spokesperson from the National Parks Association was quoted as saying that the number of sharks being caught was unsustainable, and that protected grey nurse sharks had been caught in the process.

Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Co-op Director Geoff Blackburn said the claims of unsustainable fishing were unfounded.

"It is a managed fishery, subject to environmental impact studies, quota limits, and gear restrictions. There are also exclusion zones around grey nurse habitats," he said.

"We do use a long line method of fishing for sharks, but there is no wire on the hook. Shark fishing uses a tuna circle hook to ensure the animal is hooked in the mouth and not in the stomach any non-target species that are caught can be released.

"We have done everything in our power to minimise the impact on endangered species. It's a responsible industry."

Mr Blackburn did admit to an increase of shark fishing in the area.

"Shark fishing was an under-utilised resource and the market trend has changed," he said.

"The fishers are doing it tough, and if there's a market they will use it, however, the whole shark is used, and not just the fins."

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