FIN SOUP

The shark fin fisheries industry has contributed to the decline of some shark species and threatens numerous others. The impact is so great that parties to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), at their tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Zimbabwe, 6/20/97, stated the following in a request for information from members:

(Conf. 9.17)

RESOLUTION OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES

Status of International trade in Shark Species

NOTING the increase in the international trade in parts and derivatives of sharks, and the document on this issue (Doc. 9.58) submitted by the United States of America:

CONCERNED that some shark species are heavily utilized around the world for their fins, skins and meat;

NOTING that levels of exploitation in some cases are unsustainable and may be detrimental to the long-term survival of certain shark species;

NOTING that, at present, sharks are not specifically managed or conserved by any multilateral or regional agreement for the management of marine fisheries;

NOTING further the ongoing initiatives to foster international co-operation in the management of fisheries resources;

CONCERNED that the international trade in parts and products of sharks lacks adequate monitoring and control;

RECOGNIZING that the members of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Shark Specialist Group are currently reviewing the status of sharks and the global trade in their parts and derivatives in the course of developing an action plan on shark conservation;

CONSIDERING that the Conference of the Parties has competence to consider any species subject to international trade;

RECOGNIZING that other intergovernmental organizations and bodies, including the Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) of the United Nations, and the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), have undertaken efforts to collect elaborate statistical data on catches and landings of diverse marine species, including sharks;

RECOGNIZING further that the collection of species-specific data is a complex task, considering that there are some 100 species of sharks being exploited both commercially and for recreation, and that numerous countries utilize this marine resource;

THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO THE CONVENTION

URGES the Parties to submit to the Secretariat all available information concerning the trade and biological status of sharks, including historical catch and trade data on shark fisheries;

 
There are no tags or other markings on these shark fins

The National Marine Fisheries Service, in recognition and understanding of the impending crisis and, in a response to CITES request for information, presented a discussion paper entitled An Overview of the Biological Status of Shark Species. In it they stated:

"The limitations on available data on shark fisheries worldwide and the difficulty in interpreting much of this information can be summarized as follows:

  • Lack of basic life history information (growth rate, longevity, age at maturity, fecundity, recruitment).
  • Lack of population data (temporal and spatial distribution in general and by sex and age, migratory nature vs. Site fidelity, schooling dynamics, lack of baseline population data, lack of understanding of stock structure and population dynamics
  • Lack of or unreliable nature of specie specific catch and effort data with size at capture
  • Reluctance of some nations and fishermen to submit catch and effort or bycatch data
  • Misleading or significantly incomplete published catch statistics for shark fisheries
  • Lack of fishery-independent shark data
  • Lack of fishery management or management plans
  • Lack of ecological studies (habitat requirements, predator-prey relationships, etc)
Even though sharks are on the decline and there is a lack of information, in general, NMFS in
Hawaii has authorized the transshipment of shark fins from boats that fish anywhere in the world. The sharks are either intentionally caught or are the by catch of other fishing activity. These may include longlines, drift gill nets, or pair trawling. The majority of the sharks are brought along side or aboard the vessels where the fishermen cut off their fins and toss the carcasses back into the ocean, sometimes alive but eventually to die.

This is how it works as explained by Elaine of Norko Marine Agency Inc:

"A supply vessel roams the world’s oceans, refueling and resupplying fishing boats. The fishing boats sell their shark fins to the supply vessel, where they are accumulated until they rendevous with an American fishing vessel approximately 200 miles from Hawaii, on the high seas. The American vessel transports the fins to Honolulu where they are placed in containers and shipped out."

When asked what types of sharks, where they were from, and how many sharks were caught she stated that she did not know. Officials from the National Marine Fisheries Service said they did not know either and suggested that I contact the State for information on transshipments. They told me the State kept records on shark fin landings. I contacted the State and was told that they did not know anything about transshipments and I should contact the National Marine Fisheries Service. At this point I started to hum "Just Follow the Bouncing Ball".

Apparently the National Marine Fisheries Service has once again dropped the ball and show that the only animal they are really concerned with is the "buck" and the "fin".

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

The National Marine Fisheries Service needs to be prodded into taking a proactive approach in managing sharks. Help us save the sharks by writing NMFS and telling them that you are interested in protecting sharks as well as other marine life.

Contact:

The Honorable William M. Daley, Secretary of Commerce
U.S. Dept of Commerce, Rm 5854
14th & Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20230
 
Email: WDaley@doc.gov
Fax: 202-482-2741
Phone: 202-482-2112
 
President William J. Clinton
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
 
Email: president@whitehouse.gov
Fax 202-456-2461

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