A recent decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals prompted Congress to introduce the Shark Conservation Act of 2008 late last night. This legislation would close loopholes exposed in the court decision by improving existing laws, originally intended to prevent shark finning.
The Act would require sharks to be landed whole with their fins still attached, improving current laws that only require fins and carcasses to be landed in a specific ratio.
“When sharks are landed whole, it facilitates better enforcement and data collection, which is essential in stock assessments and quota monitoring,“said Elizabeth Griffin, marine wildlife scientist at Oceana. “Sharks are almost impossible to identify without their fins still attached.“
To prevent circumvention, the new provisions would apply to all vessels, not just fishing vessels. They also would prohibit the import of sharks from countries that do not have shark finning restrictions that are at least as strenuous as those in the U.S.
“Congress must take this critical step towards protecting sharks,“said Griffin. “leadership is necessary to protect global shark populations.“
The introduction of this legislation follows a recent United Nations General Assembly resolution that included language on global shark management. The resolution was the first time the U.N. has called for sharks to be landed whole with their fins still naturally attached. Enactment of the Shark Conservation Act of 2008, paired with the recent U.N. resolution on sharks, would result in stronger protections for vulnerable and endangered shark populations in the U.S. and around the world.
The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The Natural Resources Committee is expected to consider the bill mid-April.
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