Obama Signs Shark Conservation Act Into Law

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Obama Signs Shark Conservation Act Into Law

1/5/11 On January 4th, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act into law, significantly strengthening shark conservation both nationally and internationally. The Act, which was first introduced in the House by Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) and later in the Senate by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), passed both Houses of Congress on December 21st during the lame duck session.

Shark finning, the practice of cutting off a shark’s fins and discarding the mutilated carcass at sea, has been banned in the United States since 2000. However, an unanticipated loophole allowed U.S. flagged vessels to skirt regulations by purchasing fins on the high seas from fishermen engaged in finning. The fins could then be brought back to the U.S. and sold for steep profits.

The Shark Conservation Act closes this loophole. In addition, the Act promotes international shark conservation efforts by allowing sanctions to be imposed on nations that have not implemented shark fishing regulations consistent with those placed on U.S. fishermen.

To win support of North Carolina Senators, the final bill was amended to exempt commercial fishermen who catch smooth dogfish from the requirement to land sharks with their fins naturally attached. Although the smooth dogfish fishery represents less than 1% of all shark fishing in the United States and its territories, the NCMC opposed exempting any shark fisheries because it could weaken the U.S. position at international fishery management bodies, where we are advocating for stronger rules to prohibit shark finning. “The exemption could encourage other nations to exempt certain shark fisheries for economic reasons,” says NCMC president Ken Hinman.

“But while the exemption remains a concern," he says, “the fins-attached requirement will apply to all other shark fisheries and will greatly aid enforcement of the shark finning ban as well as improve the accuracy of shark species identification for stock assessment purposes.”

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