Washington, DC — Yesterday, Representative Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans in the 110th Congress, introduced the "Shark Conservation Act of 2009," H.R 81. The bill is aimed at ending "finning" - the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s valuable fins and discarding the body at sea and encouraging international shark conservation.
An identical bill was passed by the House of Representatives last year, but a companion bill in the Senate was not adopted. Ocean Conservancy strongly supports the bill.
The Shark Conservation Act would strengthen the nation’s finning ban by banning removal of shark fins at sea for all U.S. waters and vessels. Currently, U.S. Pacific fishermen can remove shark fins at sea and a complicated "fin-to-carcass" ratio is used to determine if shark bodies were retained or thrown overboard. The bill also closes enforcement loopholes, encourages other countries to adopt shark conservation programs, and establishes a process to ultimately allow for sanctions against countries that do not.
"The Shark Conservation Act contains the tools to end the wasteful practice of finning in the U.S. and revitalize shark conservation efforts on a global scale," said Sonja Fordham, Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Shark Conservation Program. "A growing number of shark populations are threatened and yet the demand for shark fins remains strong. Loopholes have allowed some U.S. shark finning to go unpunished while, in most other countries and in international waters, finning bans serve as sharks’ only safeguards. By improving its own finning ban and promoting sound conservation strategies internationally, the U.S. can lead the charge to prevent the waste of sharks and the loss of entire shark populations."
Prohibiting the removal of shark fins at sea is the most reliable method for enforcing finning bans. In addition to ending guess work about whether sharks were finned, the "fins-attached" strategy improves officials’ ability to determine the species retained in fisheries, information that is essential for assessing populations and enforcing species-specific protections. The National Marine Fisheries Service banned at-sea shark fin removal for U.S. Atlantic fisheries last year, but fin-to-carcass weight ratios remain in place to enforce finning bans in the U.S. Pacific and most international waters.
"We thank Chairwoman Bordallo for her leadership in this important initiative to safeguard some of the ocean’s most imperiled animals," added Fordham. "We urge prompt passage of these important improvements by the full House and Senate in order to ensure that the U.S. finning ban is the world’s best and a model for other countries."