Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a US east coast state fishery management body, took a giant step backwards for shark conservation when it weakened the coast-wide ban on shark finning at its most recent meeting held in Alexandria, Virginia May 20-23, 2013.
Two months ago, when the ASMFC solicited comments on the proposed change, Project AWARE and Shark Advocates International (SAI) asked for your help. We were trying to stop ASMFC from allowing the removal of smoothhound shark fins under the world’s most lenient finning ban (using a record high 12% fin-to-carcass ratio). More than 140 concerned citizens like you wrote personal messages to the ASMFC asking it to reconsider the proposal. We were thrilled and remain grateful you took the time to help.
Despite lack of scientific evidence, messages from you, comments submitted by NGOs and advisory panel recommendations, all the state managers voted for short-term economic interests and against safeguarding coastal sharks.
The changes adopted hamper enforcement and thereby provide wiggle room for finning smoothhounds and other sharks. They also set a terrible policy precedent that runs counter to current federal rules. In the global context, relaxing a state finning ban jeopardizes the US role as an international champion of the fins-naturally-attached method (the best practice for finning ban enforcement). The US has supported the end of complicated ratios in the EU and elsewhere, and has proposed a ban on at-sea shark fin removal at international fisheries bodies.
Conservationists, led by Sonja Fordham, SAI’s president who testified at the meeting, called the decision “reckless” and “a giant step backwards in shark finning prevention comes at a time when countries around the world, including shark fishing powers like Spain and Taiwan, are adopting more stringent rules to guard against this wasteful and indefensible practice."
We are grateful for your support and remain committed to ensuring that the world, including all US Atlantic states, adopts the clear best practice for finning ban enforcement: requiring that all shark fins stay naturally attached to shark bodies through landing.