Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The award-winning film Sharkwater is coming to a theatre near you at a pivotal time for shark conservation. Sharkwater chronicles shark finning off Central America and enlightens audiences as to the plight of these misunderstood animals. At the same time, government proposals to conserve sharks off Florida and end shark finning in U.S. Atlantic waters need public support. Please take action before October 11 to endorse proposed restrictions to stop overfishing and waste of these vulnerable species.

The Problem

As revealed in Sharkwater, sharks are in serious peril from overfishing. Species off Florida have been sought for decades for sport and for their valuable parts. Shark fins are particularly valuable for use in an expensive Asian soup. Disparity between meat and fin value creates an incentive for “finning”—the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea. Sharks generally grow slowly and are especially susceptible to depletion while restrictions on shark fishing have been lax. As a result, populations of many Atlantic sharks, including the sandbar shark, have declined seriously and need decades to recover. Some species, like the porbeagle shark, are already considered at risk for extinction. Many depleted shark species are still subject to targeted fishing. The U.S. has banned shark finning, but the measure relies on a complicated fin-to-body weight ratio that is hard to enforce.

The Solution

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently proposed a number of improvements to Atlantic shark fisheries management, including an end to targeted fishing of depleted sandbar sharks and protection for porbeagles. NMFS has also proposed prohibiting removal of shark fins at sea which would greatly improve compliance with the finning ban and enhance collection of catch data. Together, these measures can help rebuild Atlantic sharks and position the U.S. to champion similar shark conservation measures internationally.

The shark proposals face strong industry opposition and support from the concerned public is key to their success. Please take action before October 11 by sending a letter of support for these measures to the NMFS Highly Migratory Species Division to help ensure measures are finalized and these slow-growing species start on the long road to recovery.

Thank you for your support!


Sonja Fordham
Shark Conservation Program Director
Ocean Conservancy

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