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Victory! Strict Shark Finning Ban Moves Forward in Europe

Blue shark

Blue sharks are targeted for their fins. © Karin Leonard/Marine Photobank

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.


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EU Set to Vote on Shark Finning Ban

Oceana/LX

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!


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The Shark Finatics are Back

sharkfinatics_shirawani

2010 Junior Ocean Heroes the Shark Finatics are building a shark out of recycled materials. ©ArtsWestchester

Editor’s note: With two days until the launch of the 2012 Ocean Heroes Awards, we have a guest post today from Robin Culler – one of the founders of the Shark Finatics (Junior Award winners, 2010) from the Green Chimneys School in Brewster, NY.

Hello Oceana, it’s been two years since the Shark Finatics were honored to be named Junior Ocean Heroes and now we’re busier than ever. In the past few months, the Finatics have been involved in a few projects:

  • When we heard that two sisters had opened a restaurant in Brooklyn and were serving shark burgers, the kids got fired up. They all wrote letters and drew pictures, pleading them to stop and keep the sharks in the oceans. One boy, totally on his own, got his mom to take him to the restaurant so that he could have a heart-to-heart conversation with one of the sisters! I was thrilled!
  • I took the kids to the aquarium the other month to see the Sand Tigers there. It was really fun as some kids had never even been to an aquarium before. They loved it! One of the reasons we went was that we were invited to submit a project for an art exhibit in White Plains, NY. It is on the fish around Westchester, in the Hudson and the Long Island Sound. Since the Sand Tiger is in the Sound, we created a wonderful portfolio on all aspects of this shark (her name is Shirowani), including text and pictures. We also created a wonderful shark from soda bottles, foil, cardboard, and lots of duct tape and it will all be on display to the public all summer long.
  • I just recently held two workshops at a large conference for educators on the Finatics program. It was so cool having everyone hanging on every word, hearing about how we got started and how we grew. It really is a wonderful story.

As you can tell, we are never without projects to work on! We next have to concentrate, big time, on the shark fin bill in NY. We will be writing letters, getting a petition together, making phone calls, and maybe a trip to legislator offices.

So, long story short, we are thrilled to be staying busy and look forward to seeing who will be the next Ocean Heroes in 2012.

Take care,
Robin 

-You can support Oceana’s and the Finatics’ effort to ban the trade of shark fins in New York state by signing our petition: http://act.oceana.org/letter/l-ny-shark/

-To learn more about the Green Chimney’s School, please go to http://www.greenchimneys.org/

-Don’t forget to come back to Oceana's website on June 6 to nominate a 2012 Ocean Hero


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CEO Note: Victory! West Coast Shark Fin Ban Complete

I’m thrilled to report that as of this afternoon, the entire U.S. West Coast has now banned the trade of shark fins.

After months of work by Oceana and our allies, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning the trade of shark fins, joining the ranks of a growing number of governments rallying to protect the top predators in the oceans. Washington State, Oregon and Hawaii have all passed similar bans.

As Oceana shark spokesperson January Jones and I wrote in the Huffington Post, each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. Shark finning is a shocking practice in which a shark's fins are sliced off at sea and the animal is thrown back in the water to bleed to death. Shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, but that didn’t stop the shark fin trade.

According to government data, approximately 85 percent of dried shark fin imports to the United States came through California last year, making California the hub of the US shark fin market. Thanks to Governor Brown, this will no longer be the case.

Sharks have been on the planet for more than 400 million years, but populations around the world are crashing. They play a vital role in maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems, but due to their slow growth rate and low level of reproduction, sharks are especially vulnerable to fishing pressure.

We couldn’t have scored this monumental victory for sharks without you. Thanks to all of you for helping protect the oceans’ top predators.


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CEO Note: Nearing A Full Shark Fin Ban on the West Coast

While in 2010 the United States banned shark finning - the act of slicing off a shark's fins at seas and throwing the bleeding torso overboard to die - it has still allowed the sale and possession of shark fins, encouraging import and a market for the fins. Shark fins are primarily used in shark fin soup.

On Tuesday, the California Senate passed a bill to ban shark fin sale, trade, and possession. It awaits the governor's signature. Oceana joined the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Humane Society of the United States and Wildaid in support of this legislation.

This legislation builds on precedent and the momentum of Oceana’s work to protect sharks around the globe, including the U.S.’s ban passed last year, and a national ban on finning in Chile passed this July. The California bill joins similar legislation passed this year in Washington and Oregon, and last year in Hawaii. This coastwide action will help to lessen the demand for shark fins, and thus help save sharks across the globe that are slaughtered by countries with few or no regulations.

Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, including rare and endangered species. But with this legislation, we are making major progress in saving the oceans' top predator and one of the most ancient creatures in the sea.

If you're a California resident, you can help us. Place a phone call to Governor Brown's office to ask him to pass this bill, AB 376, by Oct. 9 in order to become law. You can reach Governor Brown's office at 916-445-2841.

With your support, we continue to win victories like this for our oceans. Thank you.


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CEO Note: Victory! Chile Bans Shark Finning

Great news! Chile’s Congress has voted unanimously to ban shark finning -- and I’m proud to announce that it’s a direct result of our work.

The bill, which Oceana drafted and campaigned for, will end the brutal practice of shark finning, in which a shark’s fins are sliced off and the shark is thrown back into the water to suffocate or bleed to death. The new bill requires sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached.

This victory follows on the heels of a very similar ban passed by the United States Congress last December. Chile’s adoption of the same approach is heartening at a time when sharks are in serious trouble around the world.

Up to 78 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, and Chile has become a major shark fin exporter. A Freedom of Information Act request filed by Oceana revealed that between 2006 and 2009, Chile exported more than 71 tons of shark fins from 8 different species.

With the passage of this bill, Chile joins a growing list of countries leading the way in shark conservation. This legislation will help protect shark populations and ocean health in Chile and beyond.

Congratulations to our Chilean colleagues, and thanks to supporters like you, whose support makes it possible for us to win significant victories like this one.


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Shark Finning Banned in U.S. Waters

In a culmination of years of work by Oceana and our allies, Congress has ended shark finning in U.S. waters with the passage today of the Shark Conservation Act.

This morning the U.S. House approved the Senate version of the Shark Conservation Act (passed yesterday), which now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.

Shark finning is the brutal practice of slicing off a shark's fins, often for use in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. The shark -- sometimes still alive -- is thrown back into the water to bleed to death. In addition, without the fins attached, many sharks can’t be identified, which further impedes management.

Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years and as apex predators, they play a vital role in maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems. But due to their slow growth rate and low level of reproduction, sharks are especially vulnerable to pressure from human exploitation. Many shark populations have declined to levels where they are unable to perform their roles as top predators in the ecosystem.

This is an enormous victory for sharks and for the oceans. Huge thanks to all of you who have taken action over the years to help make this happen! You can thank your Representatives and Senators for protecting sharks, too.


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