November 17, 2010
Oh, go on, call your Senators to chat about sharks; you KNOW you want to. And now is the perfect time. The 2009 Shark Conservation Act passed the House back in March, then stalled due to Senator Tom Coburn (R), Oklahoma.
Here are some key talking points about sharks, ocean health, the importance of this Bill, and FREE phone numbers and links to contact your representatives.
- Globally shark populations are under threat because an estimated 80-100,000,00 sharks are killed each year; and the leading cause of this decimation is for their valuable fins (worth ~ $300/lb).
- “Finning” is the cruel and wasteful practice of cutting the fins off live sharks and discarding the live animals at sea to drown. This is done to save room in the ships’ holds for the fins rather than the less valuable bodies.
- Because sharks are apex predators they are vital to the healthy functioning of our ocean ecosystems including valuable fisheries.
- The U.S. Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 made it illegal to have shark fins without corresponding bodies on board any U.S. fishing vessel.
- HOWEVER, in 2002, a court case ruled in favor of an obvious finning operation that claimed ‘cargo ships’ were exempt from the law, thereby creating a loophole that has allowed shark fins taken in U.S. waters to be transferred at sea and shipped to foreign ports. NOTE: The case that led to this ruling, alone, represented 30,000 sharks killed and about 1.3 million lbs. of discarded sea life as bycatch.
- SHARK CONSERVATION ACT 2008-2009
- Six years later, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (D) of Guam (a territory more familiar with shark issues than, say, Oklahoma) proposed legislation to close the unintended loophole by requiring the whole landing and transport of sharks regardless of the kind of vessel.
- By the time the Bill had passed the House, it was renamed the Shark Conservation Act of 2009. However, from March 2009 it was referred, twice, to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
- In September 2010, despite “unanimous consent” the Bill failed to pass in the 111th Congress because it was blocked by using a procedural ‘hold’ by Senator Tom Coburn (R), Oklahoma.
- The Senator claimed he was “controlling government spending” despite the estimated low cost of the bill at $1 million/year.
- In this next session of Congress, the bill can and should be reintroduced and, finally, passed as the effective, enforceable law it was meant to be back in 2000. Our sharks can’t wait another decade to be protected, and neither can our oceans.
- We must contact our elected representatives and tell them that the legal protection of sharks is of vital importance and a high priority to, us, their constituents and for ensuring the health of our oceans. Some Members of Congress have toll-free numbers you can call and all can be easily reached at Congress.org, just enter your zip code under the GET INVOLVED banner.
- Coburn’s phone numbers are – Washington: 202-224-5754; Tulsa: 918-581-7651; Oklahoma City: 405-231-4941
For the oceans,
The Selkie Society