Congress to Stop Shark Finning

Bob Endreson bob at
Mon Sep 27 16:44:36 EDT 1999

The Western Pacific Fisheries Coalition has learned that Congressman Randy Cunningham (R-CA) has introduced legislation to ban shark finning, the cutting off of a shark's fins and dumping its carcass overboard, in all U.S. waters. The Legislation is being submitted in two parts. The first urges Regional Fishery Management Council's to stop finning and the second will amend U.S. law prohibiting shark finning in all US waters this fall. 

In a June 21, 1999 letter to the Chairman of the Western Pacific Council, Mr. Terry Garcia, Deputy Administrator of NOAA, who must approve whatever the Council does, directs the Council to "take immediate action to ban the practice of shark finning". In the letter, Mr. Garcia points out that the US has been a leading proponent of international shark conservation measures at the United Nations FAO meetings this year. He goes on to say that "The US position during development of the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks was that the FAO should affirmatively address this issue, even to the extent of putting in place a global ban on shark finning". Mr. Garcia's letter concludes by saying that "The Council should amend the Western Pacific Pelagic Fishery Management Plan to require full utilization of all sharks harvested in this fishery". 

86% of the sharks caught are brought to the boat alive according to NMFS observers and then shot, hacked to death or knocked unconscious before being finned. We'll never know if in fact they were dead when thrown back into the sea because 99% of the shark is thrown over board and wasted. NMFS data also shows that Shark landings have declined from approximately 155,000 in 1993 to approximately 90,000 in 1998. The data also shows that although landings have decreased, sharks that were finned increased from approximately 3,000 in 1992 to over 60,000 in 1998. The data further shows that the CPUE (catch per unit of effort) of blue sharks has decreased from 28.0 per 1,000 hooks in 1995 to 14.0 in 1997 a 50% reduction.

Cunningham's actions follows in the wake of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council attempts to allow finning to continue here in the Western Pacific, while it is banned in the Atlantic and Gulf. 16 out of 19 Coastal States ban shark finning as it is deemed wasteful. The Council has been trying to justify the practice to both the Hawaii State Legislature and the Federal Government, however obviously their arguments had no merit. We have asked for the Secretary of Commerce to pre-empt the Council See preemption request at . However, now it seems that Congress will do the right thing.

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