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New Zealand bans shark finning in a move welcomed by environmentalists

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand on Wednesday announced it will ban the practice of shark finning, a move the Pew Charitable Trusts said is welcome and will bring the country in line with other developed nations.

New Zealand's Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the move will reinforce the country's reputation for sustainability and environmental protection.

The new rules, effective October, will make it illegal to remove fins from dead sharks and dump the carcasses at sea. It was already illegal in New Zealand to remove fins from live sharks.

Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy by some in China. But the practice of shark finning has been condemned by many environmentalists as inhumane and wasteful.

Pew estimates at least 100 million sharks are caught commercially each year, threatening the survival of some species.

New Zealand officials estimate that commercial fishers catch about 20,000 tons of sharks annually and export about 121 tons of shark fins.

Imogen Zethoven, director of Pew's global shark conservation campaign, said in an email the ban was an important first step, although was unlikely to reduce the numbers of sharks caught in New Zealand. She said Pew would like to see nations impose complete bans on catching shark species threatened with extinction, and sustainable catch limits placed on other species.

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