While participating in the International Coastal Cleanup, a group of volunteers found two of the young sharks on the sand, while another was found inside a trash can.
The incident was immediately reported to the Division of Fish and Wildlife of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources.
Responding to the report, representatives of the DLNR-DFW, including division director Manny Pangelinan and biologist Michael Tenorio, visited the site to investigate.
“It’s been reported to me by Ms. Rita Chong from Best Sunshine’s outreach people that they saw dead sharks here,” Pangelinan told Saipan Tribune.
After inspecting the dead sharks, it was determined that the kill was quite fresh and happened probably between Friday evening to early Saturday morning.
Tenorio identified the sharks as black-tipped reef sharks, which come in and out of the lagoon. According to Pangelinan, the dead species are just babies.
After further walking along the shore, Tenorio found parts of sharks on another part of the same beach.
Tenorio said there are many possibilities as to how the shark ended up being caught and killed.
“All we know is somebody took the fins and the tail and they pretty much left behind most of the shark,” Tenorio said.
“I’m very disappointed to see that we have people already poaching on small sharks. That is obvious that this is a shark finning activity,” Pangelinan said.
Shark finning is the activity of catching sharks, cutting off its fin and or tail, and discarding the rest of the shark.
Pangelinan warned that shark finning is against the law.
“I just want to remind people that shark finning is against the law for both local and federal,” Pangelinan said.
Public Law 17-27 was signed in 2011, making the Commonwealth the first U.S. territory to ban shark finning. The law states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute shark fins in the CNMI.”
“Any person found in violation of this Act shall be fined not less than $5,000 but not more than $30,000 and/or imprisoned for not more than six (6) months,” the law states.
Federal law also prohibits shark finning since 2000, with shark conservation further strengthened through the Shark Conservation Act of 2010.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA Fisheries, “the Shark Conservation Act requires that all sharks in the United States, with one exception, be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.”
“If we catch anybody doing shark finning, we’ll be prosecuting [them] to the fullest,” Pangelinan said, adding that they will continue to look into the matter. “We will continue to monitor because we don’t have any lead at this time.”
He said this was the first time he was notified of such an activity on the Beach Road side but hopes it will be the last.
Pangelinan urged the public to report cases like these to DFW.
“We just want to ask the public that if they have any information leading to shark finning activity, to please contact us. We appreciate the public’s assistance in providing any type of information leading to any type of poaching and especially this kind of incident,” Pangelinan said.
Shark finning causes tens of millions of sharks to die a slow death each year. Some starve to death, get eaten by other fish, or drown.