House Natural Resources Committee Strips US Shark Finning Ban of Loopholes

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Washington, D.C. -- Today, the US House Committee on Natural Resources voted in favor of H.R. 5741, the Shark Conservation Act of 2008. Introduced by Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), the measure will reinforce the Shark Finning Prohibition Act, which was signed into law in 2000.

Since the original bill's passage, the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning whereby the fins of a living shark are removed and the animal is thrown back in the water to die has been illegal in the United States, but enforcement has been hampered by loopholes in the ban.

Enforcement officials have stated that the only way to truly impose a shark finning ban is to require that sharks be landed whole, and an amendment to the Shark Conservation Act introduced by Representative Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS) contains this mandate. This key amendment requires that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached and was also agreed upon by the committee.

"Personally I don't like the way and manner in which sharks are being killed," Faleomavaega told reporters. "But at least as a conservation measure…those fins better be on that shark."

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), an animal advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., supports this critical and timely modification to the current US shark finning ban. "We commend the committee for approving this important bill and giving sharks much-needed protection," said AWI President Cathy Liss.

Actress Bo Derek, activist against wildlife trafficking and longtime AWI spokesperson, also sent a letter to committee members in support of the bill. "It's very difficult to know how many there are left in the world. Some studies show that in the past 20 years, they're down 90 percent. They reproduce very slowly," Derek explained. "I don't think sharks have a chance unless people just stop eating shark fin soup."

While the bill would stop sharks from being finned in the US, imported shark fins served in the US could still be from finned sharks. AWI will continue its campaign to contact US restaurants currently serving the highly controversial "delicacy" of shark-fin soup, asking that they consider the precarious status of many of the targeted species and stop selling the dish immediately. A list of these establishments and a fact sheet on the practice of shark-finning are available on the AWI website.

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Media Contact:
Serda Ozbenian, AWI: (202) 337-2332

For over 57 years, the Animal Welfare Institute has been the leading voice for animals across the country and on Capitol Hill to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. To learn more about us, please visit www.awionline.org.