As you may have noticed from the previous post, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is proposing draft addendum to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for coastal sharks to bring it in line with the current Federal regulations. These regulations are based on the Shark Conservation Act of 2010, which required all sharks fished in US waters to be landed with fins still attached… with the exception of a familiar yet under-studied species known as Mustelus canis, the smooth dogfish. These sharks can still be finned in Federal waters as long as the weight of fins does not exceed 12% of the weight of the finless carcasses. This exception was glaring not just because it singled out one species with a relatively limited range compared to other species in the fishery, but also brought out that seemingly absurd 12% fin-body weight ratio. The addendum is open for public comment until March 28th at 5 pm. With any luck, this post will help clarify some of the issues involved.
Earlier this month, a video of fishermen shooting a rifle at sharks appeared on YouTube and caused quite a stir. The video has since been removed, but not before shark conservation activists made copies (warning: the videos are extremely graphic and have inappropriate language). Apparently some computers can access the site with the videos and others can’t, if you can’t access the site and want a copy of the videos just let me know. All images in this post are screenshots from the video.
The act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year, closes important loopholes in current U.S. shark management policy by banning the practice of removing fins * at sea (for almost all species, more on this later). It also provides a framework for Federal officials to work with our trading partners that don’t similarly protect sharks.
It was expect to easily pass the Senate, but as we reported earlier this fall, Republican firebrand Tom Coburn blocked it and related conservation legislation. Senator Coburn’s stated objection to the bill was that it would cost too much, but the estimated cost according to GovTrack is less than $1 per American taxpayer.
I’ve written about the Shark Conservation Act several times. Though it passed the House of Representatives, it keeps stalling in the Senate, and bills need to be passed by both in order to become law. The SCA would close many existing loopholes in United States shark management policy, and is endorsed by many conservation organizations.