The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today criticized
the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (Wespac) for failing to
call for an immediate end to shark finning. Hawaii-based fishing vessels
commonly catch blue sharks while fishing for tuna and swordfish. Crew
members amputate the fins of about 95% of these sharks and throw the
mutilated carcasses back into the water. The fins are used to make a
soup considered a delicacy in some Asian countries.
At its annual meeting in Honolulu yesterday, the council
voted to limit the number of sharks killed each year to 50,000. This
number is equal to the current average catch over the last three years.
"The council has, in effect, taken no precautionary measures to mitigate
the killing of blue sharks in the Pacific," said Dr. Rod Fujita, an EDF
marine ecologist. "While some claim that blue sharks are more prolific
breeders than other sharks, little is known of the impact of this
wasteful killing on the sustainability of the blue shark population."
"It's irresponsible to allow tens of thousands of sharks
to be killed each year without knowing much at all about their ability
to sustain this level of fishing, or how it will affect the Western
Pacific marine ecosystem," said Stephanie Fried, an EDF policy analyst.
"If Wespac won't step in to stop this disgraceful
practice, then the federal government will be forced to take action,"
said Fujita. "The National Marine Fisheries Council does not allow
finning in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean. It
should ban this practice in the Pacific as well."
A National Marine Fisheries Service report indicates
that crew members of fishing vessels sell the fins upon returning to
shore. Shark fin profits amounted to about $1 million in 1998. Because
the shark fins are sold on a cash-only basis, Hawaii does not derive any
tax revenue from this trade. In effect, the sharks are subsidizing
captains and vessel owners, who let the crew keep the profits from the
fins in lieu of bonuses or higher wages.
The Environmental Defense Fund, a leading, national,
NY-based nonprofit organization, represents 300,000 members. EDF links
science, economics, and law to create innovative, equitable, and
economically viable solutions to today's environmental problems.
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