Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pew Environment Group Encouraged by Chilean Senate's Efforts to End Shark Finning

Officials from the Pew Environment Group were in Valparaiso this week to present to the Senate fisheries commission and meet with the presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies as well as other government officials in support of a Senate bill that would end the practice of shark finning in Chilean waters.

The Pew delegation discussed pending legislation mandating that sharks can only be brought into Chilean ports with their fins naturally attached to their bodies. The Chamber of Deputies will consider the bill once it clears the Senate.

"Shark finning—the practice of catching a shark, removing its fins and tossing the carcass overboard—is one of the most wasteful fishing practices ever known," said Matt Rand, director of shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group. "The Humboldt Current provides Chile with one of the richest marine environments in the world, but the ocean does not provide endless numbers of sharks."

"Finning is taking a tremendous toll on sharks around the globe," said Maximiliano Bello, senior adviser to the Pew Environment Group. "These animals grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over their lifetimes, leaving them exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing and finning. With an estimated 53 shark species found in Chilean waters, we need to protect these important animals before it is too late."

Chile has the world's seventh most productive fishing fleet, harvesting 3.6 million metric tonnes of seafood in 2008, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. That year alone, the country exported 36 metric tonnes of dried and frozen shark fins to Hong Kong, the world's primary importer.

Worldwide, 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.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect our oceans, preserve our wildlands and promote clean energy.

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