War on Sharks: NOAA Could Undermine State Shark Fin Bans
December 1, 2013
January Jones and Andrew Sharpless / The Huffington Post & Oceana
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is tasked with "the management, conservation and protection of" our nation's "living marine resources," so it might come as a surprise that the agency is challenging state laws that help protect sharks. Each year, shark finners slaughter as many as 73 million sharks for soup. The insatiable demand for shark fins has already contributed to population declines as high as 90 percent for some species.
NOAA Could Undermine State Shark Fin Bans
January Jones and Andrew Sharpless / The Huffington Post
(November 25, 2013) -- Commuters traveling through the metro station near the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) headquarters might notice something unusual -- a series of ads posted by Oceana urging NOAA to protect sharks and not shark-finners.
NOAA is tasked with "the management, conservation and protection of" our nation's "living marine resources," so it might come as a surprise that the agency is challenging state laws that help protect sharks.
Each year, shark finners slaughter as many as 73 million sharks for shark fin soup. Slaughter is no understatement -- they typically hack off every one of a shark's fins before hurling the shark back overboard, dead or dying. The insatiable demand for shark fins has already contributed to population declines as high as 90 percent for many species.
The US government banned shark finning in US waters in 2000, but until recently the trade in shark fins was still legal across the country. Between 2010 and 2013, eight US states and two territories passed bans on trade in shark fins.
By closing a large percentage of the US market and reducing demand, the state bans help protect sharks globally. Previously, an average 68 percent of the shark fins imported into the US were imported into the eight states that enacted these bans.
Visibility around the gruesome act of shark finning, as well as its ecological implications, is starting to have an impact. Hong Kong, the world's center for shark fins, committed to drop shark fin soup from the menus of official functions, and a string of Asian airlines will no longer carry shark fins as cargo.
But this May, NOAA threatened to halt this positive momentum by proposing a new rule claiming that federal law may preempt, or overrule, state shark fin bans. NOAA argued that the state bans may interfere with fisheries management, because they might restrict a US fisherman's ability to catch a shark and then sell the fins later.
None of the state bills address fishing, as finning is already illegal in US waters. Instead, the state bans complement federal shark conservation law by blocking trade in fins.
Banning shark finning but allowing shark fins just doesn't make sense. By trying to circumvent state bans, NOAA is actually aiding shark finners globally and ignoring the immense conservation benefits these simple state bans offer. They're also ignoring the will of state representatives who put these bans in place, often with bipartisan support.
Sharks are slow to mature and produce few offspring, which means that populations may be unable to recover from the enormous impact of finning. And it's not just about sharks -- these apex predators help maintain the fine-tuned equilibrium of our ocean's ecosystems, which means that threats to sharks can affect everything from coral reefs to healthy fish populations.
Oceana takes shark conservation seriously, and has fought for many years for policies that help to end shark finning. Please join us and urge NOAA to drop its challenge to state shark fin bans. They should focus on protecting sharks, not shark finners.
Visit oceana.org/sharksnotfinners to take action now, and tweet the hashtag #sharksnotfinners to @NOAA to spread the word.
State Shark Fin Trade Bans Threatened:
Will You Side with Sharks?
The sale of shark fins is banned in eight US states, but these bans are in danger. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently challenged state shark fin bans with proposed regulations that could overrule existing bans, in the belief that they might restrict a US fisherman's ability to legally catch a shark and sell the fins later.
But in reality, state trade bans do not reduce fishing opportunities but DO reduce the demand for shark fins. Each year, international shark finners slaughter as many as 73 million sharks for shark fin soup. State bans reduce the demand for shark fins in the US, having already reduced shark fin imports by 68%.
NOAA is expected to finalize their rule soon. Please write today to show passionate support for existing and future laws banning the trade of shark fins.
Let's tell the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to stop interfering with state shark fin bans.
To Sign the following Letter, click here.
Implement the Shark Conservation Act to ensure that sharks are brought to port with their fins attached, but DO NOT overrule existing state shark fin trade bans. These bans, currently in use in eight states, help protect vulnerable sharks worldwide and ensure that imported shark fin products were not harvested in harmful or unsustainable ways.
Protect sharks, not shark finners!
Oceana Report Unveils Hidden Shark Catches
Up to 24 countries may be catching sharks in the Atlantic and Mediterranean without reporting catches to ICCAT
Marta Madina / Oceana
MADRID (November 19, 2013) -- A new report by Oceana, based on Hong Kong shark fin trade data and other sources, has revealed that up to 24 countries may be catching sharks in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea but failing to report these catches, as is legally required by the Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The report was released today, at the 23rd Regular Meeting of ICCAT, in Cape Town, South Africa.
By comparing 2012 data on reported shark catches in ICCAT, the international shark fin trade, and vessels authorised to fish under ICCAT, Oceana identified two categories of countries that may not have complied with ICCAT regulations: (1) countries that did not report shark catches, yet exported shark fins to Hong Kong; and (2) countries that did not report shark catches, yet have ICCAT-authorised longliners, fishing vessels that are very likely to catch sharks.
"This year, ICCAT is finally in a position to penalise countries that flout their obligation to provide data on shark catches," stated Dr. Allison Perry, marine wildlife scientist with Oceana in Europe. "Data reporting is the most basic requirement for responsible fisheries management -- without knowing how many sharks are being caught, it is impossible to know what impact fisheries are having on these vulnerable animals."
During this week, 47 Contracting Parties fishing highly migratory species in the Atlantic and Mediterranean will convene to discuss their management and conservation. Sharks will be high on the agenda this year, with key measures to protect threatened shark species under discussion, including the replacement of ICCAT's weak shark finning regulation with a strict ban that would require all sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached.
Among the other major issues to be discussed is the management of overexploited bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. In addition, non-compliance by Contracting Parties will be broadly examined, with the possible application of penalties in cases where data have not been reported, or where illegal fishing has occurred.
Maria Jose Cornax, fisheries campaign manager with Oceana in Europe explained: "We call upon the Parties to establish precautionary management and compliance as the guiding principles of this meeting. The precautionary approach shouldn't only be limited to threatened species, but should also be applied where there is a high level of uncertainty -- such as with Eastern bluefin tuna. This stock should be allowed to recover, and no quota increase should be considered."
Learn more: Sharks in ICCAT Fact Sheet
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