by Michael dEstries
Categories: Animals
Tags: .
Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons

A bill backed by ocean conservation groups, as well as celebrities like “True Blood’s” Kristin Bauer, has passed the Senate and House and will now head to President Obama’s desk for a signature.

The “Shark Conservation Act of 2009″ outlaws shark “finning” for shark fin soup and would require the federal officials to work with nations that don’t similarly protect sharks.

“Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans,” said Senator John Kerry, who championed the bill.

“Finally we’ve come through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life,” he added.

An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins — leading to a population decline as damaging as 90% for some species. Oceana, which fought heavily for the bill, was quite pleased with the passage. “The Shark Conservation Act has finally passed the finish line. Oceana applauds Congress and its ocean heroes for passing such an important piece of legislation. Sharks now have a reason to celebrate this holiday season,” rep Beth Lowell said.

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

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  • David

    This is a good start but it really doesn’t do what it has been represented as doing.

    Here is the text of the bill.

    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-81

    To quote;

    “to adopt shark conservation measures, including measures to prohibit removal of any of the fins of a shark (including the tail) and discarding the carcass of the shark at sea;”

    and;

    “(P)(i) to remove any of the fins of a shark (including the tail) at sea;
    (ii) to have custody, control, or possession of any such fin aboard a fishing vessel unless it is naturally attached to the corresponding carcass;
    (iii) to transfer any such fin from one vessel to another vessel at sea, or to receive any such fin in such transfer, without the fin naturally attached to the corresponding carcass; or
    (iv) to land any such fin that is not naturally attached to the corresponding carcass, or to land any shark carcass without such fins naturally attached;”

    This same basic language is repeated through the bill. It doesn’t ban shark finning, it bans shark finning at sea. It is still legal (unless there are other laws that cover this issue) to catch sharks, you just can’t remove the fins and discard the remaining carcass at sea. As long as the fins are still attached you are not in violation of this new law.

    So it appears you could just transport the whole shark to shore, remove the fins and then discard the carcass or even sell it as pet food. True, having to transport the whole shark means less space on board which would cut into profits but it won’t necessarily stop finning.

    At least one video I have seen shows the sharks being finned on land and the carcasses being piled up, which seems to still be allowed by this law.

    • AnimuX

      That’s a fairly poor assessment.

      The USA already had the 2000 Shark Finning Prohibition Act which applies to anyone under US jurisdiction. This law filled in some loopholes.

      “After the 2000 Shark Finning Prohibition Act passed the average annual landings of sharks off the United States between 2001 and 2006 declined 93 percent.”

      This new bill also affects how the USA deals with other nations. The USA can now apply additional legal options it already had established for stopping IUU fishing, illegal drift net use, exploitation of internationally protected species, etc, for combating shark finning internationally.

      If your point is that a fisherman could just fin the shark on land instead of at sea you’ve also overlooked the fact that fishing boats can only carry so much weight in one trip. Add in fuel costs, ice packed freezers filled with whole sharks instead of just fins, and more, then the outcome is fewer sharks killed for less profit anyway. (not to mention the measured success of the 2000 Shark Finning Prohibition Act)

  • David

    Animux, are you incapable of reading?

    “…(unless there are other laws that cover this issue)…”

    “True, having to transport the whole shark means less space on board which would cut into profits but it won’t necessarily stop finning.”

    Why don’t you take off the blinders and actually read what I wrote? You just see my name and immediately go off don’t you?

    • AnimuX

      I disagreed with your assessment of the bill’s effectiveness.

      Where you say it won’t “necessarily” stop finning, I disagree based on a few minutes of simple research.

      Like the 93% decline in annual shark landings recorded from 2001-2006 thanks to the 2000 Shark Finning Prohibition Act which uses the same “at sea” language.

      • David

        Then why didn’t you say that instead of ignoring what I wrote?

  • Michael Raymer

    Overall, I agree with what David wrote in both posts above, but making it so the vessels have to transport the whole shark, rather than just the fins makes a very significant difference. And for me, that’s the point. I personally don’t have that much against shark-finning. It’s the waste of the rest of the shark and the fact that this practice (as it stands) is hurting the oceans dramatically. I mean, shark fins are supposed to be a rare delicacy. Let’s keep them that way. If this bill helps make it so that LESS sharks are killed, then mission accomplished.

    • David

      I fully agree with you, I should have made that clearer in my original post.

      Many shark species are truly endangered but are still being killed in the tens of thousands a year. So anything that can reduce those numbers is good, but more will be needed and in my opinion no law that the US passes will be enough. An international agreement with some power behind it will be needed.

      The waste issue is also a good point, if the rest of the shark is used (for pet food, fertilizer, etc.) then some other animal will be spared. Of course that doesn’t apply for the species in the worst shape, which should be internationally protect by a treaty without any loopholes. And before Animux calls me a hypocrite, the IWC was established with Article VIII in place and agreed to by all signatories, a country can’t be blamed for abiding by the agreement that they signed and there was a ten year span when that Article could have been removed but wasn’t.