Shark finning is to be banned in New Zealand under a new proposal aimed at improving shark conservation.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy this afternoon announced the proposal which will outlaw the removal of shark fins and the dumping of shark carcasses in the sea.
"The practise of finning sharks is inconsistent with New Zealand's reputation as one of the best managed and conserved fisheries in the world," Mr Guy said at the Island Bay Marine Education Centre in Wellington.
"We need to ensure New Zealand's 113 species of sharks are sustainably managed and that we provide incentives to utilise as much of the resource as practically possible."
Shark fins are regarded as a delicacy in Asia, where they are used in soup and for the production of many traditional medicines.
The Government has come under increasing pressure from wildlife conservation groups to ban the practice, which has already been outlawed in around 100 countries.
The New Zealand Shark Alliance, comprised of a number of conservation groups and scientists, has welcomed the announcement.
"We strongly support today's announcement and will be encouraging the Government to implement the ban quickly, especially in the highly migratory species fishery which is New Zealand's main shark finning fishery," said NZSA spokesperson Katrina Subedar.
"Until now, other countries have been banning finning or creating shark sanctuaries while our Government has continued to put our clean, green brand under threat."
The NZSA said New Zealand was among the world's top 10 nations for killing and exporting sharks, was a major exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong and recently became the biggest exporter of dried shark fins to the United States.
Dr Smith said sharks were an important part of New Zealand's biodiversity even though they may not be as "cuddly" as the kiwi.
"Our attitude to sharks has come a long way since the Jaws days of the only good shark being a dead shark. This ban on finning is an important step towards improving shark conservation," he said.
It is already an offence under the Animal Welfare Act to fin a shark and return it to sea alive. However, fisherman can catch a shark, kill it, remove its fins and dump the carcass at sea.
The ban will be implemented in stages from next year, while a complete ban is expected to be in place by October 2016.
The Government also hopes to improve shark conservation through a range of other education and research measures.