Shark Finning Loopholes Widened by Atlantic States Commission

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SAI-WCS News Release
Media contact: Liz Morley: 843.693.5044

State fishery managers unanimously approve world's most lenient finning rules for region's second largest shark fishery

photo credit: Andy Murch, Elasmodiver

Alexandria, Virginia. May 22, 2013. Conservationists are denouncing yesterday's decision by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to ignore public concerns, advisory panel recommendations, and scientific evidence by voting to weaken an already lenient regulation on shark "finning" (slicing off a shark's fins and discarding the body at sea). The new rule more than doubles the smooth dogfish shark fin-to-carcass ratio (a difficult to enforce standard allowed only for this one species), thereby substantially increasing wiggle room for undetected finning of smooth dogfish and similar looking coastal shark species.

"This reckless decision to take a giant step backwards in shark finning prevention comes at a time when countries around the world, including shark fishing powers like Spain and Taiwan, are adopting more stringent rules to guard against this wasteful and indefensible practice," said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. "We now call on East coast residents to urge their individual state representatives to correct this irresponsible move by immediately applying strict finning rules in their waters."

Mid-Atlantic landings of smooth dogfish, also known as smoothhounds, more than doubled between 2000-2011. The species is the only Atlantic shark that is targeted by fishermen and yet not subject to population assessment or catch limits. U.S. Atlantic fishermen land more smooth dogfish than any other shark species except for spiny dogfish. Fin-to-carcass ratios are notoriously difficult to enforce. The National Marine Fisheries Service switched from ratios to the best practice for finning ban enforcement (leaving the fins attached through landing) in 2008. With U.S. encouragement, a growing number of countries are adopting "fins-attached" rules.

"The U.S. has been a world leader in the battle to end shark finning, but this dismantling of state shark finning rules calls that leadership role into question," said John F. Calvelli, Executive Vice President for Wildlife Conservation Society. "The ASMFC decision opens an enormous loophole for the finning of smooth dogfish and other shark species."

U.S. dogfish are mostly exported for meat (used in fish and chips) and fins (used in shark fin soup).

The conservation groups pledged to continue to press for fins-attached rules to prevent shark finning in all fisheries, without exceptions. This new infographic illustrates conservation challenges for dogfishes.

Shark Advocates International (SAI) is a project of The Ocean Foundation established to provide leadership in advancing sound policies for sharks and rays. Based on nearly 20 years of shark conservation achievement, SAI works to secure science-based limits on shark fishing and trade, protection for endangered species, and stronger bans on shark finning.