National law would mirror CNMI conservation law
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP) will introduce bipartisan legislation to ban the buying and selling of shark fins in the United States. Sablan made the announcement on Capitol Hill with other members of Congress, who are cosponsoring his bill, with officials from the ocean conservation group, Oceana, and with movie star and environmental spokesman Morgan Freeman.
Sablan’s “Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016” takes its lead from a law enacted by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in 2011 that makes it illegal to possess, sell, or distribute shark fins in the islands. Both the CNMI law and Sablan’s new bill do allow sharks to be caught for noncommercial subsistence purposes or with a government permit.
“In 2011, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was the first U.S. insular area to enact legislation banning the trade in shark fins,” said Sablan. “Today, three U.S. insular areas and 11 states have laws on the books to protect sharks.
“We are now building on that leadership from state and insular area legislatures by introducing national legislation to ban the buying and selling of shark fins throughout the United States.”
The goal of Sablan’s legislation is to halt the worldwide decline in shark populations by taking away the U.S. market for shark fins and removing a major economic incentive for shark finning. An estimated 73 million sharks are being caught each year for their fins and, in most cases, they are then thrown back in the water to drown.
“Destroying millions of sharks simply for their fins is a wasteful practice that our indigenous Chamorro and Rafaluwasch cultures would never have allowed. We would have used as much of the shark as possible for food, tools, and other purposes,” Sablan explained. “In addition, our ancestors understood and respected the role of the shark in preserving the health of the oceans.”
Freeman also explained the purpose of the bill. “While shark finning is banned in U.S. waters, we continue to buy, sell, and trade shark fins throughout the country. By allowing the trade of shark fins within our borders, the U.S. continues to contribute to this global problem.”
“Shark finning is cruel and wasteful and is putting some shark species at risk of extinction,” added Lora Snyder, Campaign Director at Oceana. “To end shark finning, we need to end the demand for shark fins.
“We applaud the leadership of the bill’s co-sponsors today in helping to end the commerce in shark fins in the United States.” Cosponsoring Congressman Sablan’s bill are:
• Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
• Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU)
• Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX)
• Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
• Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)
• Rep. John Katko (R-NY)
• Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA)
• Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)
• Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA)
Oceana used the occasion also to release a new report on declining shark populations, demonstrating why Congress needs to ban the buying and selling of shark fin products nationwide.
Sablan is in his fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has served as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs and is currently Vice Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over ocean issues. (PR)