Sunday, February 5, 2012

We The People Responds

On Friday afternoon, NOAA, on behalf of the Obama Administration, responded to our petition to ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark and shark products, including shark fin.
Thank you for your petition and concern about the sale, trade, and possession of shark and shark products, including shark fins. The Obama Administration shares your concern about the status of shark stocks and the sustainability of their exploitation in world fisheries, and is committed to improving their management and conservation.
6,495 Shark Defenders signed the petition and put shark conservation on the Obama Administration's radar. Ours is the 45th official We The People response, and from what we can tell it is the first to address marine ecosystem issues.

Unfortunately, the answer we got was no.  The petition lists the steps the United States has taken to protect sharks species, but does not address our request for a trade ban of shark.  However, "the Obama Administration recognizes the importance of all marine resources and continues to support innovative and conservation-minded efforts to achieve healthy oceans and fisheries worldwide."

We can give credit where credit is due.  The United States doesn't kill as many sharks as Indonesia and Spain, and their policies are certainly better than many countries.  However, the United States still kills more sharks on an annual basis than Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Thailand, and Malaysia, countries that are often criticized for the number of sharks they kill.

The United States is not leading the world in shark conservation, neither in policy nor in advocacy. Many nations are ahead of them, including Palau, which despite criticisms they are not conducting enforcement, busted another illegal shark fishing vessel last week (Also to give credit to the United States, it was the US Coast Guard that apprehended the illegal shark fishing vessel in the Marshall Islands this past November). Shark sanctuaries and proper management are the way forward for protecting threatened shark species, not finning bans. As we point out in our petition, finning bans determine how a dead shark is discarded, not how many are killed or whether they actually live.

The shark conservation movement is evolving to move beyond finning. Despite the imagery we are all familiar with, finning is illegal throughout most of the world with only a few pockets remaining (i.e. Venezuela). Enforcement remains a problem everywhere, of course.

We look forward to continuing our work with the network of Shark Defenders to obtain stronger shark conservation laws in the United States and around the world, after all,  The Obama Administration shares your concern about the status of shark stocks and the sustainability of their exploitation in world fisheries, and is committed to improving their management and conservation.

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