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Leila Monroe’s Blog

Fins Aren't Worth It: In California and Around the World, Sharks are Too Valuable to Lose

Leila Monroe

Posted May 16, 2011 in Reviving the World's Oceans

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One way or another, shark finning will have to end.  Either shark species around the world will be wiped out from overfishing, or we will realize how unsustainable shark finning is and stop it before it’s too late.

As our global population approaches 7 billion, human demands for the riches of the earth and sea will stretch natural resources to their limits.  There’s no better example of demand dramatically outstripping supply than the demand for shark fins, which drives the shark finning industry to kill 26-73 million sharks every year just for their fins, or 2-5% percent of their body.  Dried shark fins fetch up to $600 per pound, an indication of both the high demand and the growing rarity of fins.

But there is hope.  Around the world, opinions about consumption of shark fins are changing, and people are taking urgent action.  Yesterday, we received exciting news that Washington’s Governor Gregoire has signed into law a bill that bans the sale, trade or distribution of shark fins or derivative products in Washington.  That bill received unprecedented bipartisan support with only one “no” vote in both houses of the legislature.

If you live in California, you can help pass AB 376, a bill to follow Washington and Hawaii’s lead by banning the trade and sale of shark fins in our state.  Click here to let your Assembly Member know that you support this important bill.  You certainly won’t be alone in supporting this bill: a recent study found that 76% of Californians surveyed support AB 376, and 70% of Chinese Californians surveyed support it too!

If you’re in the Bay Area, you can also support NRDC’s work to protect sharks and healthy oceans by attending our fabulous annual San Francisco Council Event, Splash Ball.  This year, we’re celebrating with a Shindig for Sharks: more information is on Facebook and you can buy tickets online.

 Ian.Munroe via Flickr

Photo by Ian Munroe, via Flickr

Efforts to protect sharks from finning are even gaining traction in Chile, Hong Kong, China and mainland China

Indeed, around the world, coastal communities are realizing that sharks play an important role in keeping our oceans healthy.  Pacific island nations and states like Palau, Guam and The Northern Mariana Islands have taken bold action to protect sharks because they recognize the value of these large predators to their economies, which are closely tied to healthy oceans and benefit richly from  shark tourism.   A study prepared by the Pew Environment Group revealed the tremendous value of sharks when they are alive:

  • In Palau, shark-diving brings approximately $18 million annually to their economy and annual income in salaries paid by shark-diving industry is estimated $1.2 million
  • Shark-related tourism has contributed more than $800 million to the Bahamian economy
  • In 2003, whale shark diving in Thailand generated an estimated $110 million
  • In 2006, up to 25 percent of travel expenses from visitors to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia was attributed to shark tourism
  • In 2010, shark and ray-diving in the Canary Islands were estimated to generate $22 million to the local economy per year

These changes are happening not a moment too soon.  If you live in California, please join this effort to protect sharks, now!  Here’s how you can help:

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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