Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bill to Protect Sharks Introduced in Congress

The Humane Society of the United States and its global affiliate Humane Society International applauded Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam) for reintroducing the Shark Conservation Act, H.R. 81, in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill provides increased protection for vulnerable shark species from the disgusting practices of "finning" and overfishing.

"Each year, tens of millions of sharks worldwide have their fins cruelly cut off at sea and are then thrown back overboard to die a lingering, painful death," said Patricia Forkan, president of Humane Society International. "Shark finning threatens the survival of essential marine species, and we commend Congresswoman Bordallo for addressing this cruel and wasteful practice."

Although shark finning was banned in the U.S. by the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000, enforcement is complex and a major loophole allows circumvention of the law. Last summer, the U.S. Department of Commerce implemented regulations in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico requiring that sharks be landed with fins naturally attached to their bodies, the only sure way to prevent shark finning. However, the Pacific Ocean has no comparable regulation, leaving these expansive waters wide open to abuse.

Last year, the previous version of the Shark Conservation Act (H.R. 5741) passed the House in the 110th Congress, but did not advance in the Senate before the session was adjourned. The new legislation contains the same language closing a loophole that currently permits a vessel to transport fins that were obtained illegally as long as the sharks were not finned aboard that vessel. The act also requires that all sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached to their bodies, creating a clear enforcement mandate applicable in both oceans.

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