Common names: Dogfish, flake

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Wild Caught

New Zealand

Key Facts

  • Australia imports shark meat from New Zealand, where stock assessments for sharks targeted are limited.
  • The majority of shark meat imported from NZ is rig or school shark (an endangered species), plus nearly 700t of shark meat that is not identified to a species level.
  • Shark fisheries in NZ are identified as posing a significant threat to the critically endangered Maui's dolphin and the endangered Hector’s dolphin as well as a number of endangered seabirds (yellow-eyed penguins and Salvin’s albatross, for example).
  • There is uncertainty over the impact of trawling on marine habitat.

More information

  • Imported New Zealand (1,548t imported in 2016 of which 523t is school shark, 295t is rig/spotted dogfish, 7t elephantfish, 28t ghostshark and 695t of undefined shark)

Sharks are apex predators that sit at the top of marine food chains and are critical to the health and stability of marine food webs, fish populations and coral reefs. Many species are long-lived, late to mature and reproduce infrequently, life-history characteristics that make the majority of sharks extremely vulnerable to overfishing.

The lack of certainty around shark species population numbers, shark biology and their important role in marine ecosystem health means the impact of fishing on many species is of significant concern. Globally, the IUCN has assessed that a quarter of all shark and ray species are threatened with extinction as a direct result of poorly regulated fishing.

Rig and school shark are the predominant species caught in NZ and exported into Australia. Approximately half of what is imported is not defined to species and could include any of a range of shark species.

Shark meat is commonly marketed as ‘flake’ in Australia, particularly in Victoria. The name ‘flake’ only refers to two species of gummy shark according to the Australian Fish Name Standard – one species from Australia (gummy shark) and one from New Zealand (rig). However, as the standard is not currently legally binding, shark meat from other species is also termed ‘flake’. There is currently no regulation that ensures all seafood sellers identify the species that the shark meat is from.

Rig and school shark are of mainly of unknown stock status, with high uncertainty around whether fishing pressure is set at an appropriate level to ensure overfishing is not occurring. For a group of species that are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation, there is a high risk of fishing too hard and driving them towards becoming overfished. School shark is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ to extinction on the IUCN Red List.

The majority of the rig catch and half of school shark catch is taken using gillnets, with trawl fisheries catching a smaller amount. Both fishing methods are a high risk to a range of threatened species. The critically endangered Maui’s and the endangered Hector’s dolphin are both caught in gillnets and trawls, and fishing activity has been identified as the major threat to the survival of both species.  Current management measures to reduce bycatch of dolphins are inadequate to prevent the possible extinction of this species.

GIllnets and trawl fishing also pose a risk to a range of seabirds, with the endangered yellow-eyed penguin caught at a rate that will continue to drive the decline of this species, and Salvin’s albatross also caught at too high levels.

There is uncertainty over the impact of trawling in NZ waters. There is a lack of information on the type of habitat that is affected, and minimal independent oversight of the fishery to reduce the risk of trawling over sensitive marine habitat.