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Your help needed: Oppose a weakened shark finning ban in Maryland

The state of Maryland is proposing new regulations that would, among other things, weaken the state ban on shark finning by allowing fishermen to remove the fins of smoothhound sharks at sea,  as long as the ratio of the weight of the fins does not exceed 12% of the ratio of the carcasses. These “fin ratios” are already troubling and ineffective ways to enforce finning bans. Landing sharks with fins naturally attached is considered the best practice for shark fisheries management. A 12% ratio is exceptionally high (3.5-5% are common ratios worldwide) and risks enabling unscrupulous fishermen to remove the fins of not only smoothhound sharks, but other species whose fins could be passed off as such. This makes it harder for managers to track how many sharks of which species are being killed.

In New York, smoothhounds are landed with fins naturally attached. They should be in Maryland, too! Photo credit: Sonja Fordham.

Some fishermen claim that smoothhound sharks can’t be landed with fins naturally attached, but this photo from New York challenges that notion.  Photo provided anonymously for this post.

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources is taking public comments on this policy, which means that you can help!

Please send an e-mail to [email protected] by the end of the day on Monday, January 27th containing the following information:

Critical information (must be included)

  • Subject line: Public comment about  Regulations .02, .03, and .04 under COMAR 08.02.22
  • I oppose the proposal to allow a fin-to-carcass ratio of 12% for smoothhound sharks

Optional arguments:

  • Fin-to-carcass ratios are a problematic method for enforcing a finning ban that creates the opportunity for illegal finning to be undetected, and make it harder for managers to collect species-specific landing data.
  • The higher the fin to carcass ratio, the greater the chances for undetected finning; a 12% ratio would be the highest in the world.
  • The proposed policy risks finning of not only smoothhound sharks, but also many other shark species (some of which are prohibited) with similar looking fins.
  • A complete ban on removal of shark fins at sea (a requirement that all sharks be landed with fins naturally attached)  is considered the best practice by most U.S. scientists and fisheries managers.
  • Please cancel the proposed exception for smoothhound sharks, and apply a fins naturally attached policy in Maryland while promoting the same within the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
  • Smoothhound sharks currently have no other protections in MD or Federal waters.  It is imperative that the ban on finning them is properly and rigorously enforced.

Please send a public comment, please share this with interested colleagues, and please post a comment on the blog post to let me know that you’ve submitted a public comment!