Wednesday, March 9, 2011

California Legislation: AB 376 Shark Fins

Each bill I'm following will get its own post with related updates and background information.

AB 376: Prohibition of selling shark fins
Author: Assembly Member Fong and Huffman
Status: Will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife

This bill would ban the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins in the state of California.

What You Can Do
If you live in California and support this bill, send a letter to Assemblymembers Fong and Huffman, thanking them for trying to preserve a dwindling apex predator.

Assemblymember Paul Fong
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0022

Assemblymember Jared Huffman
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0006

You can also email Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee members, asking them to support.

Background and Current Law
Shark finning involves capturing live sharks, rays and sharkfishes, cutting off the fins, and throwing the fully, conscious live animal back into the ocean. Sharks feel pain, and they suffer a prolonged, cruel death from finning. Shark meat is not as popular or lucrative as the fins, and so most of the 70 million sharks finned last year were thrown back live in the waters.

Finning sharks is technically illegal in American and E.U. waters. Loopholes exist, which the Pew Charitable Trust has been trying to close with the Shark Conservation Act, signed into law earlier this year. There are loopholes in the law. In the "high seas", there is no limit on shark finning. While shark finning is banned by federal and state law, the import and sale of shark fins is not.

In California, according to one survey, 1/3 of Chinese restaurants offer shark fin for purchase. I could not find data on how many shark fins (or weight) California imports on an annual basis. There is a vague reference of "thousands of pounds" here (in Singapore, about 2,500 tons are imported each year).

Shark Population Status
The only three species that has been offered worldwide CITES protection are the great white shark, whale shark and basking shark (the latter two are filtering sharks). Last year, CITES had the chance to add seven other shark species to their list, which would limit their slaughter at sea but added none. The scalloped hammerhead, white tip shark, great hammerhead, and smooth hammerhead are all vulnerable or endangered, primarily due to fishing, were not included. The porbeagle was added, then removed at the last moment.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an environmental network with a mission of maintaining biodiversity. Thousands of scientists are members. The IUCN maintains a database of threatened species with their Red-List. It is considered to be one of most well-researched databases in existence.

There are approximately 248 species of shark on the Red-List.

Nine categories define the population viability of the species (defined here): Extinct, Extinct in the Wild, Critically Endangered (80-90% reduction in current or expected population in next decade, <250 mature individuals), Endangered (50-70% reduction in current or expected pop, <250 mature individuals), Vulnerable (50% reduction in pop size, 30% reduction in next ten years or 3 generations, <10,000 mature individuals or <1,000 mature individuals in subpopulation), Near Threatened, Least Concern, Data Deficient, Not Evaluated

Of the 248 species of shark on the Red-List, they can be broken down into the following categories:
Critically Endangered: 13 species
Endangered: 11 species
Vulnerable: 41 species
Near Threatened: 50 species
Least Concern: 68 species
Data Deficient: 64 species
Not Evaluated: 1

That means there are 65 species with populations that are threatened with a significant reduction in population size, number of mature individuals, or habitat availability either currently or within the next 10 years or three generations. Subtracting the data deficient and not evaluated species, since neither are useful statistics to this particular discussion, that leaves 183 species, of which 36% are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. 27% of near threatened. And 37% are in the "least concern" category.

No comments: