Australia  announced plans to immediately deport the crews of boats caught illegally shark-finning in Australian waters.

Deporting the boat crews puts the boat owners at considerable disadvantage, as they not only have to pay a bond to get the boat released, but have to send a crew back over to collect the boat. In the event, many will simply abandon the vessels.

The hard-line approach to the problem of shark-finning has come after Australia adopted a radical National Shark Plan in order to deal with the rapid decline of shark populations, largely caused by over-fishing and shark-finning operators.

The Australians are not only acting to conserve species from the threat of extinction, but are also defending a multi-million dollar diving tourism industry. Research into diver preferences show that most are keen to encounter large fish such as sharks in their natural habitat while diving.*

The Humane Society International, which has actively campaigned to stop shark-finning, estimates that 50,000 sharks are caught on long-lines in Australian waters every year.

Palau - punishment for finning goes hand in hand with research

The Pacific island of Palau has also been forced to take drastic steps to protect shark populations from the shark-finning operators, with fishermen requiring licenses and all shark fin catches being seized and burned. Last January, shark parts seized from illegal fishing operations worth 180,000 US dollars were sent up in flames.

The small island relies heavily on the income from diving tourism, and saving sharks is seen as vital to future economic well-being.

Divers and marine scientists working with the Micronesian Shark Foundation have attached video cameras and acoustic tags to a number of sharks in an effort to study their behaviour.

Volunteer divers attach the devices, and National Geographics Crittercam programme part-funded the project.

It is hoped that the information gleaned from this exercise will enable more effective shark protection measures to be put in place.