Shark finning is legal and a serious threat to the estimated 53 species of sharks found in Chilean waters. As recently as 2008, Chile exported 36 tons of shark fins to Hong Kong. Currently, Chile has no laws on the books regarding shark finning but legislation is emerging that could change this.
Max Bello, South American representative of Pew's global shark campaign, has been working with members of the Chilean Senate, Chamber of Deputies, and commercial fishermen's associations for the last few months to begin to address shark finning in Chile. On March 1, 2011, Sen. Horvath, Orpis, Gomez, Sabag and Cantero introduced Senate bill 7489-03, The Use and Benefit of Sharks, to end the practice of shark finning and to mandate that all sharks that are landed in Chile be landed with their fins naturally attached.
On Wednesday April 6th, Max Bello and Matt Rand, Director of Pew's global shark campaign went to Valparaiso, Chile where the Chilean Congress is located, to advocate for the passage of the bill and to launch a photo exhibit in front of the senate chambers. Due to media outreach efforts the day before, the nation's most viewed daily newspaper “La Tercera” featured these efforts on the front page and did an extensive story on the global issue of shark declines and the Chilean legislation.
The day was busy with a series of meetings - Senate President of the Fishery Commission to discuss strategy for passing the legislation, the Under Secretary of Fisheries to discuss their support for the legislation and interest in amendments to the bill, and the Senate President.
Just after lunch, Max and Matt gave a presentation to the Senate Fisheries Commission on the global status of sharks, Pew's efforts to stop the declines and details regarding the legislation. Members of the senate commission had a number of insightful questions for Max and Matt and indicated their full support for the bill. In fact, members of the Senate Commission were willing to increase the fines and imprisonment terms for those not complying with the law.
Directly following the Commission hearing, the two most important national TV news agencies as well as the Senate TV conducted interviews with Max, Matt and the Senate Fisheries Commission President. Both TV news stations aired extensive stories featuring Pew's campaign efforts. Following the interviews the shark photo exhibit was launched with many senators in attendance including the President of the Senate and the Senate Fisheries Commission president.
Our campaign will continue to follow the progress of senate bill 7489-03. The final day for proposed amendments to the bill in the senate is Monday April 11th, at which time the bill will be passed onto the full senate to vote on. The bill is expected to pass the senate with no major modifications and will hopefully be sent to the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) by the week of April 18th. The legislation is expected to be well-received in the chamber. The bill is expected to be brought for a final vote on May 21st which coincides with an annual Presidential address to the Congress. The photo exhibit will remain on display for the next two weeks.