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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A new international push to save dwindling shark populations

A new international push to save dwindling shark populations
April 28th, 2009, By Melissa Segrest, kabc-TV Los Angeles, CA

The world’s shark population is dropping rapidly, and the primary reasons are humans’ increasing hunger for both a Chinese delicacy and an alternative medicine: shark fins.

Shark fins are prized as a key ingredient in costly shark-fin soup favored by the Chinese around the world.

The U.S. has had a shark-finning prohibition since 2000, but that law will be strengthened with the introduction of the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) last week. Rep. Madeline Bordallo of Guam has already introduced similar legislation in Congress, and that bill received unanimous approval.

The older law contained loopholes that at least one American ship took advantage of when they were discovered carrying the fins of about 30,000 sharks. They appealed on the basis that they were a “transport” ship, not a “fishing” vessel, a distinction specified in the earlier law’s language.

The new legislation will close that loophole, along with a ban on importing any shark products that come from countries without shark conservation efforts.

Of the 591 shark and ray species examined by an international group of conservation scientists, 21 percent are “threatened with extinction” and 18 percent have “near-threatened” status, according to the Pew group. The difficult task of tracking so many shark species likely misses about 35 percent of the shark and ray population, researchers say.

One species, the dusky shark, has declined in population off America’s East Coast by more than 80 percent since the ‘70s, and will take about 400 years to rebuild, according to the Pew group.

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