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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blue sharks facing challenges

Blue sharks facing challenges, foundation finds
Sefira bracha fialkoff - Sentinel
, Posted: 11/29/2008 01:31:35 AM PST

A 7-foot-long blue shark that was tagged and released in Monterey Bay this summer was killed in a drift gill-net off of the Channel Islands of Southern California last month, highlighting the perils the once-numerous species faces.

The shark was collected, tagged and released during a routine shark survey by the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation. The foundation began tagging sharks in the bay in 1990.

"We've been able to map out the migratory path of these animals and with this information we've basically proven a lot of conventional wisdom wrong," said Sean Van Sommeran, foundation director.

When the foundation started, blue sharks were thought to have a coastal migratory route, but the group's research indicates a deep-water pan-Pacific route.

"These sharks showing up so far from the original projected paths are indicators of extreme fishing pressures," Van Sommeran said.

Blue sharks are heavily impacted by high seas, coastal drift gill-nets and by the finning industry, which kills sharks for their high dollar value fins, Van Sommeran said.

It's all about sustainability. If you take out a long-standing fixture of an environment, it has a very negative effect," Van Sommeran said.

The Shark Finning Prohibition Act, signed in 2000, made it illegal for a foreign vessel to offload shark fins in a U.S. port, unless they offload the rest of the shark carcass as well. The rule is aimed at drastically reducing the number of sharks finned and carcasses discarded at sea.

"There's a big problem with enforcing these regulations, because when they find boats with sharks fins on them you can't tell where it was collected or what type of species it is," said Van Sommeran.

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