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Jul 012010
 


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Shark fins for sale in San Francisco's Chinatown. (Photo: PRNewsFoto/WildAid)

From Green Right Now Reports

On the eve of the State of Hawaii becoming the first jurisdiction to ban sales of shark fin soup, local and international conservation groups praised the ground-breaking move as a first step to halting the decimation of global shark stocks.

Fins from up to 70 million sharks a year are used for shark fin soup, often with the bodies of the animal dumped overboard dead or alive. In a recent study, a team of shark scientists reported that of 64 species of open ocean sharks and rays, 32 percent are “threatened with extinction” — primarily because of overfishing. In addition, 24 percent were “near threatened,” while another 25 percent could not be assessed because of a lack of data.

Currently only 3 species have any kind of international protection and the UN CITES convention recently declined to take any action in the face of opposition led by Japan.

“Globally shark catches are unregulated and unsustainable,” Stefanie Brendl of Shark Allies said in a statement. “The shark fin trade is completely unregulated worldwide. This is a first step in giving sharks a future.”

International conservation group WildAid has released footage showing a live tawny nurse shark dumped on an Indonesian reef with its fins removed. The group also said shark fin soup is widely available from Chinese restaurants in the U.S. WildAid said a recent survey found one third of the Chinese restaurants in San Francisco serve the dish for prices ranging from $6.95 to $85 a bowl.

This Hawaii law makes it illegal to sell, possess or distribute shark fins without a permit issued by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources for shark research or educational purposes or the Hawaii Department of Health, for restaurants possessing fins prepared for consumption by July 1, 2010. Effective July 1, 2011, it will be illegal for these restaurants or retailers to sell or possess fins for shark-fin soup or other shark fin products.

The U.S. Congress is considering the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 that would close a major enforcement loophole by requiring that the fins of sharks caught in federal waters remain naturally attached to the shark. Passage of the federal law would further strengthen and complement Hawaii’s new shark protection law.

In China, the largest market for shark fin soup, there is growing opposition to shark fins. NBA star and China’s most popular figure, Yao Ming, has joined other Chinese sports and movie stars, along with leading businessmen, in taking a stand by refusing to eat shark fin soup.

“Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years playing vital roles in marine ecosystems, but at the current rate of overfishing driven by the demand for shark fin soup they could be wiped out in a single human generation,” said WildAid director Peter Knights.