Blog Tags: Shark Finning
With as many as a third of all shark species in the world facing some threat of extinction, the future of sharks has been in peril for some time now. This month, however, French Polynesia and the Cook Islands have taken a stand for sharks, creating adjacent shark sanctuaries covering 2.5 million square miles of ocean – an area nearly equal to the continent of Australia! With this move, French Polynesia and the Cook Islands join Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, and Tokelau as countries that have created shark sanctuaries, more than doubling the area worldwide now off-limits to shark fishing. This largest sanctuary in the world also bans the possession, sale, or trade of shark products within its boundaries.
On December 6, French Polynesia created the world’s largest shark sanctuary at 1.5 million square miles, and the neighboring nation of the Cook Islands followed suit on December 19 with its designation of its entire exclusive economic zone – an area equal to the size of Mexico at 756,000 square miles -- as dedicated shark sanctuary waters. “We are proud as Cook Islanders to provide our entire exclusive economic zone…as a shark sanctuary,” Teina Bishop, Cook Island minister of marine resources told BBC News.
You might have missed it, but over Thanksgiving Oceana won some major victories. One that we are especially excited about was the vote by the European Parliament to impose a strict ban on shark finning. While this ban has technically been in place since 2003 the new vote closes a crucial loophole by requiring all vessels in EU waters, as well as all EU vessels around the world, to bring their sharks to shore fins attached.
This is a major victory for Oceana, which has been pushing for the strict ban for years. It is also an especially big victory for sharks. The EU is the largest exporter of shark fins to China and Hong Kong in the world. Fishing the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean, and Pacific Oceans it has become the world’s top fisher of sharks.
The practice of shark finning is just as brutal as it sounds. Once captured, a shark is brought on board and its fins are sliced off. The finless shark is then discarded in the ocean, where it is left to struggle and die. Up to 70 million sharks are killed every year, mostly to serve the market for the Chinese status symbol delicacy, shark-fin soup. Sharks are slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived and give birth to few young, making them unable to cope with such high levels of exploitation.
By requiring the sharks to be brought on board fins attached fishermen are unable to stockpile huge numbers of fins in their holds and the number of sharks that can be killed on any one trip is dramatically curtailed.
Today we moved closer to a complete ban on shark finning in the European Union!
The Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament voted in Brussels today to support a strict ban on shark finning, both in European Union waters and on EU ships worldwide. The European Union contains several major shark fishing nations, responsible for 14% of all reported shark catches worldwide.
This new policy would close loopholes in EU’s existing shark finning policy, which allowed some vessels to remove fins at sea. It will have to be approved by the rest of the Parliament before it can go into effect.
Shark finning is a cruel and wasteful practice where fishers cut off a shark’s fins, often while it is still alive, and then toss the rest of the shark overboard to die. Sharks everywhere are facing strong fishing pressures, with many species now classified as threatened or endangered. When only fins are collected, more sharks can be caught, and the species may not be identifiable on-shore, putting threatened and endangered sharks at more risk.
The Shark Conservation Act of 2010 made shark finning illegal in US waters, requiring fishers to bring the entire shark to shore. In the EU, shark finning has technically been prohibited since 2003, but the policy voted on today will remove an exemption that allowed some vessels to continue removing fins on-board and made enforcement of the ban difficult.
Put together, EU countries form the largest shark fishing entity in the world, and we are thrilled that the Parliament is taking this important step to protect sharks in their waters, after several years of campaigning by Oceana's team in Europe. “The vote of the Fisheries Committee sends a strong message to the wider Parliament: the EU, which catches the largest share of sharks worldwide, must set a global example when it comes to policy on shark finning,” says Xavier Pastor, Executive Direction of Oceana Europe.
The European Parliament is set to vote next week on a complete ban of shark finning for the EU fishing fleet. EU fishermen currently span the globe fishing for sharks, from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, ranking second in shark catch globally.
Predictably, the move has drawn the hackles of the fishing industry which claims that the ban will cost them more than €9 million. This might seem like a lot--that is, unless, you take into account the fact that boats authorized to cut off shark fins have received more than €117 million in EU subsidies from 1994 to 2007. As executive director of Oceana Europe, Xavier Pastor says about the measure:
“European tax payers have invested a huge sum of money in these fishing vessels. They paid to help build them, modernise them, and support them while they headed off in search of new fishing grounds for sharks. Now, Europe is asking these vessels to commit to sustainable fishing practices for the sake of both the sharks and the future of the fishing sector.”
Shark finning, as the name implies, is the brutal practice of slicing off a shark’s fin and then discarding the shark, which is often still alive, overboard, where it is left to die. It is estimated that more than 70 million sharks every year are killed, mostly to supply growing demand in Asia for shark fin soup. While the shark fin itself is a mostly flavorless component of the dish, its conspicuous consumption at weddings, banquets and business meetings has become a status symbol for the region’s growing middle class.
We'll keep you posted as the story unfolds!
We asked our Ocean Heroes finalists: If you were elected President, what would be the first thing on your agenda?
They gave us some pretty great answers, check them out below, and don’t forget to vote for your favorite finalist! Who knows, maybe one of our finalists will be running for President themselves someday.
Michele Hunter Stop the killing of all marine mammals throughout the entire world.
Hardy Jones Expose levels of pollution.
Kristofor Lofgren I would change our energy policy, because reducing carbon and oil and gas spills, creates a healthier and less acidic ocean.
Dave Rauschkolb End offshore oil drilling.
Rick Steiner An emergency effort in clean, sustainable energy, and energy conservation, to stop climate change and its devastating impacts on marine ecosystems.
Don Voss Appoint Sylvia Earle Secretary of World's Oceans and give her free reins to establish regulations as needed.
Sara Brenes Ban all shark finning in US, no shark products to be sold, imported or exported, create an ocean world conservation summit to try and make a plan to end shark finning, whaling and overfishing and try to create peaceful and safe ocean pact.
The Calvineers Reinforce the Endangered Species Act, especially the Marine Mammal Act so that NOAA would be better funded and more efficient at protecting marine mammals from human made dangers.
Sam Harris No killing sharks on this earth ever!!!!
James Hemphill Ban the chemical BPA from plastics to reduce the human input of toxins in the ocean.
Teakahla WhiteCloud I would ban all long-line fishing and trawler fishing and make sure all ocean laws are strictly enforced and make all reef systems National Parks.
Only a few more days of voting are left, tell us your favorite finalists today at oceana.org/heroes!
Photo Credits (clockwise from top left): Oceana/Juan Cuentos, Oceana/Maria Jose Cortex, Oceana/Carlos Suarez, Kip Evans Photography, Oceana/Carlos Suarez, Oceana/Carlos Suarez, Oceana/LX, Oceana/Juan Cuentos, Oceana/LX, Oceana/Juan Cuentos, Oceana/Enrique Talledo.
With the session ending in just three days, Delaware may become the first East Coast state to ban the shark fin trade. HB 324, the bill banning the sale, trade, possession and distribution of shark fins throughout the state, has already passed the Delaware State Assembly and it’s now up to the Senate to finish the job.
Shark fins are primarily used for shark fin soup, a delicacy in many Asian communities. This demand for shark fins, however, drives the cruel practice of shark finning, slicing a shark’s fins off and throwing the body overboard. This bill would decrease the demand for fins, and prevent Delaware from becoming a state used to transport fins to larger markets in other East Coast states, like New York.
Some species of sharks have declined by as much as 99 percent, mainly from the demand for shark fins. As the top predators in the ocean food chain, sharks help keep our oceans in balance.
The importance of passing a shark fin ban bill in Delaware is a small step in a bigger picture. Other states that have enacted laws banning shark fin sales include California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii, and similar legislation is awaiting Governor Pat Quinn’s signature in Illinois.
Oceana commends the Delaware State Assembly on their important action to save sharks, and calls upon the Delaware Senate to do the same!
New York state is the largest importer of shark fins on the East Coast, but if a new bill passes, this fact could be history.
This trade is driven by a demand for shark fin soup, which can sell for hundreds of dollars. Sadly, shark numbers are dropping worldwide due to relentless fishing for fins, and in many places sharks have their fins cut off while still alive (a cruel practice called “finning”). Finning is illegal in the United States, but the demand for fins in New York and elsewhere in the US add to the pressure. Imported fins can come from countries with less regulations, and many shark populations in the US are dropping dangerously low, with some hammerhead populations falling as much as 98%.
But New York is considering a bill that would ban the trade of shark fins within the state, and we’re so excited to announce that it’s moving forward! After a huge push by Oceana and other shark supporters, which included thousands of your signatures and personal pleas from Leonardo DiCaprio and January Jones, both the Senate and Assembly committees passed the bill. Now it’s up for a vote in the Assembly and Senate. But the New York legislation session ends this week, which means they have to act soon.
We’re still gathering signatures to send to New York legislatures. Please sign today and pass the petition along to your friends. The world’s sharks need you.
Today, the Maryland state Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on numerous bills including a bill that would ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark and ray fins.
This bill will help protect global shark populations by reducing the demand for their fins. Each year, tens of million sharks are killed so that their fins can be used in shark fin soup. In the United States, the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning is illegal. However, many fins are imported from all around the world, contributing to the demand for shark fins and the overfishing of sharks.
Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and California have already passed similar laws, and bills have also been introduced in New York, Illinois, Florida, and Virginia. Oceana supports Maryland’s initiative and asks that state residents do so as well.
Please show your support by telling your legislator to vote for SB 465!
The West Coast shark fin trade bans we celebrated last year may be catching on here on the East Coast.
Maryland lawmakers introduced bills Tuesday in both the House and Senate that would outlaw the sale, trade, distribution or possession of shark fins, with violations punishable by fines ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
As Oceana's Campaign Director Beth Lowell told the Baltimore Sun’s Green blog, there's been no dried shark fin shipped into or out of the port of Baltimore, but U.S. Customs data show exports of shark products, mainly dogfish, exported from Washington and Norfolk.
Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup. In this wasteful and cruel practice, a shark’s fins are sliced off while at sea and the remainder of the animal is thrown back into the water to die. Without fins, sharks bleed to death, drown, or are eaten by other species.
Shark finning is illegal in the U.S., but fins are imported from countries with weak or nonexistent protections. In recent decades some shark populations have declined by as much as 99%.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on this legislation and we’ll be sure to keep you posted!
In Singapore, we’re seeing more proof that dedicated activists can make a difference in the world. Singapore is one of the shark fin capitals of the world, but thanks to an outcry from local customers, its largest supermarket chain, Fairprice, will be pulling fins from its shelves.
Shark fins are often cut from live sharks, which are then thrown overboard to die. The huge demand for fins, considered a delicacy, puts some shark species at risk of extinction.
And while shark fin is a culturally important food in Singapore, the tide is turning. A campaign by divers against shark fins caused one of Fairprice’s suppliers to launch an online attack ad that said “Screw the divers!”
Luckily for sharks, the ad backfired. Not all Singaporeans are shark fin fans. Local groups like Project Fin have been fighting to create change from the inside out, and they are finally having an impact. In response to the ad, Singaporeans sent hundreds of complaints to Fairprice and suggested a boycott.
In response, Fairprice made the smart—and surprising—decision to stop selling shark fins.
"It is encouraging to see FairPrice respond promptly to the public reaction. They can progress further by selling only sustainable food," said Jennifer Lee, founder of Project Fin.
Kudos to the Singaporean shark protectors for such a powerful victory in the wake of cultural pressure.
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