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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ocean Conservancy is applauding today’s introduction the "Shark Conservation Act of 2009" by Senator John Kerry (D-MA). The bill, a companion to legislation introduced by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) and already approved in the U.S. House of Representatives, aims to end "finning" - the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s valuable fins and discarding the body at sea.
The Shark Conservation Act would strengthen the U.S. finning ban by prohibiting the removal of shark fins at sea, closing enforcement loopholes, encouraging other countries to adopt shark conservation programs, and establishing a process to allow for sanctions against countries that do not.
"The Shark Conservation Act contains the tools necessary to end the wasteful practice of shark finning in the U.S. and revitalize shark conservation efforts on a global scale," said Sonja Fordham, Shark Conservation Program Director for Ocean Conservancy. "A growing number of shark populations are threatened and yet the demand for shark fins remains strong. Loopholes have allowed domestic shark finning to continue while, in most other countries and in international waters, finning bans serve as the sharks’ only safeguards. By improving our own finning ban and promoting sound shark conservation strategies internationally, the U.S. can lead the charge in preventing the waste of individual sharks and the loss of entire shark populations."
The proposed prohibition on the removal of shark fins at sea is the most reliable method for enforcing a finning ban. In addition to ending guess work about whether sharks were finned, the "fins-attached" strategy improves officials’ ability to determine the species of sharks retained in fisheries, information that is essential for assessing populations and enforcing species-specific protections. The National Marine Fisheries Service ended the removal of shark fins at sea for Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fisheries in mid 2008. A complicated fin-to-carcass weight ratio remains in place in the U.S. Pacific and most international waters.
"We thank Senator Kerry for his continued leadership in this initiative to safeguard some of the ocean’s most imperiled animals," added Fordham. "We urge the rest of the Senate to help ensure passage of the bill and thereby ensure that the U.S. finning ban is the world’s best and a model for other countries."