The Pew Environment Group today applauded Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) introduction of the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 (companion of legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Madeline Bordallo of Guam) on the day before the EU Fisheries Ministers consider a new Plan of Action for Sharks that covers all European Union Member States' waters.
“Sharks, the top predators in the marine environment, are rapidly disappearing from the world's oceans,” said Joshua S. Reichert, Managing Director of the Pew Environment Group. “We are hopeful that this week's events mark a turning point where governments around the world will take concrete steps to stop the widespread killing of these animals.”
The Shark Conservation Act of 2009 would strengthen the current U.S. ban on shark finning, removing loopholes that the fishing industry has exploited and mandating that any imported shark products come from countries that have equivalent conservation standards.
Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark at sea, slicing off its fins – which are prized in Asian food and alternative medicine markets – and then dumping the body alive or dead back into the ocean. The practice allows fishing boats to slice off and transport many hundreds of fins without hauling the less valuable shark carcasses and their meat back to shore. Shark fins can sell for as much as U.S. $300 per pound.
The European Commission's Plan of Action for Sharks was published in February 2009 and is being examined by fisheries ministers from EU Member States. The plan would expand shark species and fisheries data, ensure sustainable catches, and harmonize internal and external EU shark policies. The Plan would also commit to improvements in the EU finning ban, but the Commission has yet to deliver a legislative proposal to do so.
The ministers are expected to release a “Council Conclusions” document that would encourage and guide implementation of the Shark Plan and set related priorities. Strong conclusions have been a key goal of the Shark Alliance, a coalition coordinated by the Pew Environment Group of 70 conservation, scientific and recreational organizations, that advocates for sound EU shark policies.
“In February Europe sent a strong and united message that urgent action is needed, and now Congress is sending one as well,” said Reichert. “Approximately 100 million sharks are being killed every year, with potentially enormous negative consequences for the global marine food chain. Every country that allows shark fishing will need to adopt strong conservation measures if sharks are to be saved.”