|Photo: Cindy Campbell|
On a 17-0 vote, the House passed yesterday afternoon a House- and Senate-revised version of House minority leader Diego T. Benavente's (R-Saipan) bill seeking to prohibit any person from possessing, selling, offering for sale, trading, or distributing shark fins in the CNMI.
House Bill 17-94 now heads to the governor's desk for action, and the bill's author is optimistic that it will be signed into law.
“I am very happy that it's now going to the governor. I consider this a milestone legislation because it not only benefits the Commonwealth as far as putting our place on the world map in protecting sharks, but it also helps international movement to protect sharks,” Benavente said in an interview after the bill's passage.
Once Benavente's bill is signed into law, it will also stop the shark fin soup trade in the CNMI.
The bill underwent a few revisions until the Senate recalled it on Dec. 30 to make further clarifications. After reconsideration, the Senate passed a revised version on the same day, reflecting the concerns of international shark protection advocates as well as House members.
The final revision clarifies the bill's intent to exempt possession of shark for non-commercial or subsistence purposes.
The bill's Section 2(c) is now clearer: “Notwithstanding subsection (a), a person in possession of a shark for subsistence purposes (non-commercial) only shall not be subject to the penalties in this Act.”
Benavente said enforcement of the bill has also been tightened up, to involve the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the Department of Public Safety, and the Office of the Attorney General.
Hawaiian State Sen. Clayton Hee, author of a bill that became the strongest anti-shark finning law in the nation, has also been drumming up support for Benavente's bill.
Benavente's bill is modeled after Hee's bill that became law in Hawaii on May 28 this year.
Shark finning is principally responsible for the decline in shark populations worldwide. Between 80 and 100 million sharks are killed each year, which has reduced overall shark populations by an estimated 90 percent.
Published in the Saipan Tribune on January 11, 2011