The Tide is Turning for Sharks

This short film highlights how nations, cities and people around the globe are saying No to Shark Fin Soup, Shark Fishing and Shark Finning.

As a diver I am proud to be part of the change and contribute to turning the tide for sharks! Project AWARE with other Shark Conservation groups are currently working on making the next CITES meeting in 2013 a success for sharks, so let’s keep the pressure on …!

Battle over shark fin soup in California heats up

Published on: June, 29 2011 – By Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles TimesShark fin soup: Battle over shark fin soup in California heats up

Environmental groups are pushing the California Legislature to ban the sale and possession of shark fins, causing an emotional split among Chinese Americans for whom shark fin soup is a traditional delicacy.

The bill passed the Assembly last month, but is running into trouble in the Senate. The fight has pitted influential Chinese American politicians against one another, some of whom are running for mayor of San Francisco. Chinese traders and restaurant owners have hired lobbyists to oppose a ban, and busloads of Chinatown residents have descended on the Capitol, saying that a ban would violate cultural custom.

Houston Rockets basketball star Yao Ming has joined other celebrities, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Scarlett Johansson, in public support of a ban. “Remember, when the buying stops, the killing can too,” says Ming, in a YouTube video that shows him pushing away a bowl of soup.

Controversy over shark fin soup in California AB376 imageShark fin soup, which can cost as much as $80 a serving in restaurants, has been a Chinese delicacy for hundreds of years and often is served at weddings and banquets. It is a status symbol, considered to have medicinal properties, and its defenders see its consumption as a fundamental cultural right.

But Assembly man Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), a sponsor of the bill, said he “grew up on shark fin soup ” only recently realizing that “Anything that is unhealthy, that the culture is practicing, we should stop doing it. We used to bind women’s feet, and that was unhealthy for the woman.”

Scientists say the fin trade has contributed to the catastrophic declines of shark populations worldwide, threatening to disrupt ocean ecosystems and encouraging the proliferation of other predators, which diminishes stocks of fish for human consumption. Fishermen cut the fins from landed sharks and dump them back in the sea, often still alive.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) have proposed amendments to allow the sale of fins from sharks that are legally fished in California waters and the importation of fins that can be certified as having been sustainably harvested.

Yee, who is running for San Francisco mayor against two Chinese Americans who support a ban, has called it “an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine.”

In an interview, Lieu said the bill is “inconsistent” because it would not ban selling shark meat in California, only shark fins. And he said, “it creates a disparate impact on a subset of a particular culture: those who consume shark fin.”

Thursday, before a packed hearing room, the bill passed the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee but only after Fong agreed to work with opponents to amend the bill before it goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is not expected to reach the full Senate before August.

A compromise may be difficult to defend and enforce.  Jennifer Fearing, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said banning the sale of imported fins while allowing the sale of California fins would violate international trade rules. Moreover, she said, “The minute you allow some fins and not all fins, there’s no way it can be enforced” because the financial incentive is high.

Animal rights groups, arguing that finning is an inhumane practice, have joined with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the California Academy of Sciences and environmental groups to lobby for a ban.

Hawaii and Washington state have passed shark fin bans, and President Obama earlier this year signed federal legislation tightening a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters.

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Pacific Island Countries Step Up Shark Conservation Efforts

Published on: June, 22 2011 – PRNewswire – USNewswire Washington Pacific Island Countries Step Up Shark Conservation Efforts

NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins imageThe Association of Pacific Island Legislatures (APIL) issued a resolution last week stressing the need for additional actions to protect sharks.

The resolution, reached at APIL’s general assembly conference in Palau, states that the association agrees with “protective legislation in Palau, Hawaii, CNMI [Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands] and Guam.”

The approved language asks “all member legislative assemblies of APIL to adopt similar legislation for a unified regional ban prohibiting the possession, selling, offering for sale, trading or distribution of shark fins, rays and ray parts.”

“Pacific islanders are again taking the global lead in initiatives to safeguard sharks from overfishing,” said Matt Rand, director of Global Shark Conservation for the Pew Environment Group. “The decision reached in Palau, home of the first Pacific shark sanctuary, underscores the growing momentum for conserving these animals across the region and sends another signal to the rest of the world that more needs to be done.”

Trade in shark fins has been banned by APIL members from Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas, and it has been suspended by the Marshall Islands.

“The shark fin ban in the CNMI was the most important legislation I introduced in my 20-year career as a public servant,” said Representative Diego T. Benavente, the commonwealth’s former House speaker and lieutenant governor. “It is imperative that this movement to protect sharks spread from island to island, nation to nation.”

Sharks, which grow slowly, mature late and produce few young during their lifetimes, have difficulty recovering from overfishing and depletion. These apex predators, living at the top of the food web, are key to maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems. Yet up to 73 million are killed every year, primarily for their fins.

“We applaud all members of APIL for responding to the plight of the region’s sharks,” Rand said. “We support their efforts and hope that their leadership continues to inspire other coastal nations to protect these important animals.”

The member states of APIL are the Northern Marianas, Guam, Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, American Samoa, Nauru and Hawaii. The exclusive economic zones of all APIL member nations total an area larger than the land masses of the continental United States and European Union countries combined.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands and promote clean energy.

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