THE placement of several shark fins on the steps at the popular Lighthouse Lookout in Ballina has disgusted locals and sparked calls for Australia to take a stand against the shark-fin industry.
The fins were spotted on the lookout steps last week, and it is not known why they were placed on the steps - but there is a possibility they could have been put there to dry out for use in shark-fin soup.
Southern Cross University senior lecturer in fisheries, Dr Daniel Bucher, identified the fins as from either a bull shark or bronze whaler.
It is not known if the fins were cut off the shark when it was still alive - though Dr Bucher is aware of three recent cases of finless live sharks washing up on local beaches and waterways.
And it is that "cruel practice that needs to stop", he said.
"Unfortunately, it is not illegal for a fisher to catch a small shark, kill it and cut off the fins for their personal use - as long as the shark is not a protected species and bag limits are adhered to," he said.
"If the meat is not used then it is a wasteful act, but still legal.
"It becomes illegal if the fins are sold and the fisher is not a licensed commercial supplier.
"In Australia, commercial shark fishers have to land the whole animal, not just the valuable fins.
"This limits the catch, but it is not a fishery that I support as it provides a legal loophole for restaurants to continue to offer shark-fin soup with no way of tracing the source.
"Overseas fishers - legal and illegal - do not land the shark, because the flesh is of low value and takes up freezer space.
"This is when it becomes such a cruel activity.
"The sharks are hauled aboard, the valuable fins cut off and the live shark is thrown back in the water to die.
"It is this cruel and wasteful behaviour that is the reason I would like to see Australia take a stand in stopping the whole shark-fin industry."
He said he would like to see legal action for animal cruelty taken against any fisher seen cutting fins off a live shark.
"It would be an interesting test case as I don't think that cruelty to fish has ever been tried," he said.
"But as a scientist I have to run all my work on fish through a rigorous ethics committee process."
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