A recent decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has prompted Congress to introduce the "Shark Conservation Act of 2008." 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 with their fins, improving current laws that only require fins and carcasses to be landed in a specific ratio.
"When sharks are landed with their fins, it facilitates better enforcement and data collection, which is essential in stock assessments and quota monitoring," said Elizabeth Griffin, marine wildlife scientist at Oceana.
To prevent circumvention, the new provisions would apply to all vessels, not just fishing vessels. The bill also allows the U.S. to take actions against countries that do not have shark finning restrictions that are at least as strenuous as those in the U.S. This could include the prohibition of imports of shark products from those countries, among other actions.
"Congress must take this critical step towards protecting sharks," said Griffin. "U.S. leadership is necessary to protect global shark populations."
Enactment of the Shark Conservation Act of 2008 would close the loopholes in the Shark Finning Prohibition Act and 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.
For more information about sharks and the threats facing their populations, please visit http://oceana.org/sharks.