Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NOAA Plans Shark Cull in the Marianas

In 2011, the people of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands passed laws banning the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins.  Since May 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been trying to overturn these laws and nine others like them to force the territories and states to allow shark fishing.  180,000 individuals including governors, senators, and congressmen wrote letters to oppose the federal preemption.  NOAA took notice.

In response, rather than simply preempting the laws, NOAA has undertaken a series of consultations with states and territories.  California, Washington, and Maryland were recently exempted from preemption because their laws do not interfere with the production of shark fins.  Fishermen are still allowed to catch sharks in those states.

Some are even speculating that the political influence of the three states may have played a role in their early exemption.  Now that the political firestorm is dying down, who will stand with the territories?

The first sustainable shark fishery has crashed apparently because it wasn't very sustainable.
The territories have the strongest laws in the country and ban the fishing of sharks, as well as the sale, trade, and possession.  NOAA wants to overturn those laws to force them to allow shark fishing.  And how have they done this?  By proposing a shark cull.  The report is available online.

NOAA wants to base policy on stories told by fishermen, not science.
The reason NOAA gives for proposing the shark cull is because "Mariana fishermen continue to experience high levels of catch depredation from sharks."  There is no science behind this statement.  No catch limits. No ecological risk assessments.  They are basing their reasoning on fish stories told them by fishermen.

NOAA continues on to suggest that "shark catches could reduce shark biomass."  That's clearly a shark cull disguised as a "sustainable shark fishery."  It is incredibly disrespectful that NOAA would suggest a shark cull when the people of the Marianas have so loudly pronounced to the world that they want to protect sharks.  Both governors joined other executives in the region to call for a Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary.  And both legislatures joined other lawmakers from across the Pacific to call for a Pacific-wide shark sanctuary.  If anything, NOAA should be coming to the islands with plans for more conservation, not less.

Endangered scalloped hammerheads have low vulnerability?
And what of science?  The IUCN Shark Specialist Group recently released a ground breaking study showing that more than half of all sharks and rays are predicted to be threatened or near threatened with extinction, and that large bodied, shallow water sharks, including all of the ones listed above, are the most vulnerable because of fishing.  It is confusing as to why is NOAA saying that some of these species have low to medium vulnerability.  What are they comparing them to when they determine productivity, whales?  Every single one of those species produces few young infrequently.

NOAA should stand with the American citizens living in the territories and respect their close relationship to the ocean and protect sharks.  Stop the cull in the Marianas before it starts.


Anonymous said...

Ever heard of
Fishery Conservation and Management Act
Public Law 94-265
NOAA is bound as you know to enforce this law, now everyone thinks they are criminals by enforcing the Fishery conservation act.
Or did you forget to mention that fact.

Shark Defenders said...

Thank you for your comment. "Reducing biomass" is not one of the goals of MSA.

blairfrazersmith said...

Are they completely out of their minds! Maybe every decision maker in NOAA should be forced to sit down and watch the new documentary 'Extinction Soup' and then see if they still think this is the way forward. said...

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