Sea Shepherd Global’s Director for Asia, Gary Stokes, has lodged a formal complaint with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Australia, highlighting a conflict of interest in relation to Australian-based research and consultancy company, Fishwell Consulting.
In the complaint, Stokes points to two reports prepared by Dr. Ian Knuckey and Matt Koopman of Fishwell Consulting. In 2014, Knuckey and Koopman prepared a report advising the Australian Government on the sustainable harvesting of CITES Appendix II shark species. At the same time, the Fishwell Consulting scientists were advising Hong Kong based airline, Cathay Pacific Airways, on how they could ensure the legal exportation of Australian shark fins for the Chinese market.
Mr Stokes refers to two 2014 Koopman and Kunckey reports to support his compliant, one which the Australian Department of Environment has used to compile a non-detrimental findings reports for the export of shark species. This report is being used for proposals such as the current one open for public comment, to approve wildlife trade of hammerhead sharks.
“There is a clear conflict of interest occurring with Fishwell Consulting and this conflict should have prevented them from consulting with an organisation with opposing views,” said Natalie Banks, Shark Coordinator for Sea Shepherd Australia.
“Furthermore, Sea Shepherd has analysed both reports and can find no disclosure of this conflict of interest in either report.”
Sea Shepherd is concerned by the undisclosed conflict of interest, which is further exemplified by Dr. Knuckley’s position as Chairman of the Geelong Food Co-Product Cluster (GFCC). GFCC has affiliations with many companies from the commercial fishery and seafood sectors, which help small food producers gain access to Asian markets through Austrade support, as part of the Asian Century Business Engagement Program.
“Sea Shepherd fails to understand how the Australian government could seek advice on the sustainable exploitation of shark species from a scientist who is the Chairman of a group which represents, amongst others, the commercial fishery and seafood business sectors, and who therefore has a vested interest in ensuring that shark stocks are made available for commercial exportation by GFCC group members,” Stokes stated.
“Furthermore, in terms of ethics, this has the potential to give GFCC an unfair business advantage over its competitors, if its Chairman is advising the government on the sustainable harvesting of sharks and his group members on commercial fishery and seafood opportunities.”
Sea Shepherd has stated that until a full investigation has been undertaken into these issues, no CITES export certificates for any of the five shark species listed on CITES Appendix II should be issued by CITES Australia.
The organisation has also today started a petition along with The Wilderness Society to prevent the proposal to approve the wildlife trade of hammerheads in Australia.