Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Guam Says: No Soup For You!

guam eddie calvo
Shark Sanctuary: Guam Governor Eddie Calvo signs the shark fin ban into law.
Guam Governor Eddie Calvo signed into law today a bill banning the sale, possession, and distribution of shark fins. The bill passed the Guam Senate on February 24 by a unanimous 15-0 vote.

The new law had widespread support from Guam’s students, scientists, environmentalists, and three local fishing clubs. Local high school students started a shark tsunami in the community, with the goal of protecting threatened and near threatened shark species in Guam and supporting similar laws across the Pacific.

“We reached out to other students around the world to help us protect our sharks,” said Ev Quiel, president of Shark Tsunami at Simon Sanchez High School. “Using the Internet we found classrooms in California, Washington, and New York to write letters to our leaders.”

guam shark fin ban
Shark Tsunami: Students from Simon Sanchez High School and George Washington High School on Guam show their support for shark conservation at a public hearing on February 1, 2011.
To support passage of the bill, the students, joined by conservationists and divers on Guam, along with an army of shark enthusiasts online, set an unofficial record for testimony received for a bill in the Guam Senate. They wrote letters, signed petitions, started a Facebook page and a blog, wrote songs and posted them to Youtube, and urged off-island activists to send emails. So many emails were received that at the start of a public hearing on the bill, Senator Rory Respicio announced that the volume of emails had crashed the blackberries of Senate staffers compiling the testimony.

According to the Pew Environment Group, up to 73 million sharks are killed every year primarily for their fins, which are valued for their use in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. As a result, 30 percent of the world's species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction. For an additional 47 percent of species, scientists lack sufficient data to properly assess their population status.

Guam follows Hawaii and the Northern Mariana Islands as the first governments in the world to ban shark fins as a conservation tool to protect shark species.

So what is next for Shark Tsunami?

“Now that the governor has signed our shark fin ban into law, we’re going to help the students that helped us protect their sharks,” explained Quiel. “That’s the basic idea behind Shark Tsunami.”

Shark Victory!: Students from Simon Sanchez High School with Guam Governor Eddie Calvo and Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio.
More pictures from the signing are posted on the Shark Defenders Facebook Page.

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