Posts Tagged 'legislation'

Government Affairs Update: 90 Days in Annapolis

government affairs and policy update

The Maryland General Assembly was gaveled into its 434th session today at noon in Annapolis.

maryland shark fin bill

Hot topics in this election year session include raising the minimum wage, expanding pre-kindergarten programs, and revisiting Maryland’s stormwater law. You can read more previews of the 2014 legislative session in the Washington Post’s 10 Things to Watch list, the Baltimore Sun’s 8 People to Watch list, or see what our partners at Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Maryland League of Conservation Voters will be working on over the next 90 days.

As part of the National Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, our Government Affairs team is committed to helping shape conservation and environmental policy at the local, state, and federal levels and engaging our community every step of the way. Weekly Legislative Updates, along with our blog and social presence, will serve to communicate the Aquarium’s legislative activities during the 90-day session. You can read the Aquarium’s 2013 End of Session Report recapping last year’s work in Annapolis.

While the list of Senate and House pre-filed bills are available for viewing, the bulk of the 3,000 pieces of legislation predicted to be introduced this session will be filed in the coming weeks. The Aquarium’s legislative agenda will evolve as the session progresses and bills are introduced. Stay tuned for updates on our policy priorities, the status of the Aquarium’s Capital Budget request and education funding, and ways you can get involved.

For more information on how the National Aquarium is living its mission in our home state, visit aqua.org/maryland.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our legislative update emails and follow me on Twitter for real-time updates from Annapolis throughout session!

Want to know who represents you? Find your legislator here.

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A Blue View: Seafood Fraud Uncovered

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

May 1, 2013: Seafood Fraud Uncovered

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss
seafood fraud.
 

When we go to restaurants and grocery stores, most of us assume that we’re getting what we pay for. But as a recent study shows, that’s not always the case—especially when it comes to seafood.

Seafood fraud is not a new issue, but according to a recently released study from Oceana, it continues to be a pervasive problem. From 2010 to 2012, Oceana conducted a seafood fraud investigation, collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples in 21 states. Using a DNA barcoding technique, a short DNA sequence was obtained from each sample and then compared to a catalogue of sequences from more than 8,000 fish species. This DNA testing showed that 33 percent of the samples analyzed were mislabeled, though there was tremendous variation depending on the type of fish purchased.

Red snapper in particular was the most commonly mislabeled—113 out of 120 samples were a fish species other than red snapper. Twenty-eight different species were substituted for red snapper, and 17 of those weren’t even in the snapper family at all. In one instance, the red snapper was actually tilefish, which the government advises sensitive groups to avoid due to high mercury levels.

Also raising health concerns, escolar was a substitute for white tuna in 84 percent of samples. Escolar is a snake mackerel that contains a naturally occurring toxin and can have serious digestive effects on people who eat more than a few ounces. The Food and Drug Administration actually advises against the sale of this species, and some countries have banned it outright. Consumers are not protected, though, when it’s mislabeled as white tuna.

The Oceana study reports that 44 percent of retail establishments sold mislabeled fish, with sushi outlets far outstripping restaurants and grocery stores. In fact, 74 percent of sushi venues mislabeled fish, compared to 38 percent of restaurants and 18 percent of grocery stores.

There are many reasons that seafood fraud occurs. They include a lack of understanding, a desire to increase profits, and attempts to launder illegally harvested seafood. Somewhere along the supply chain, someone may substitute a lesser-valued fish. Others may short-weight the product, meaning the seafood processor misrepresents the weight of a seafood product so the customer gets less food for their money.

The consequences of this fraud are considerable. In addition to affecting human health when one species is swapped with another that may have contaminants, allergens, or toxins, seafood fraud disguises what is truly happening in the marketplace, incentivizing illegal fishing and threatening conservation efforts.

To address this critical issue, the SAFE Seafood Act was recently introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate. This bill requires that seafood in the U.S. be traceable from its origin, standardizes seafood names, keeps illegally caught fish off the market, and increases inspections.

So what can you do to protect yourself from seafood fraud? Show curiosity about where your fish was caught and how. This will increase the dialogue around these important issues and hopefully encourage restaurants and stores to ask questions of their suppliers. Be knowledgeable about what you’re buying—and if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Maryland: Help save the sharks!

Shark populations worldwide are in danger of collapse due to fishing pressures stimulated by the global demand for shark fin soup.  Every year fins from tens of millions of sharks are used for this traditional, but non-nutritional meal.  Many species have been depleted nearly to the brink of extinction.  The National Aquarium and its partners are advocating on behalf of legislation that will help eliminate the market for shark fins in Maryland.

Current Federal and Maryland laws banning shark finning control shark handling practices but do not restrict the number of sharks killed just for their fins, or the substantial market for shark fins which creates economic incentives to overfish sharks just for their fins.  One of the most effective ways to protect sharks is to eliminate the market for fins by prohibiting their sale.  California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington have all banned the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins, and now it’s our opportunity to lead.

With our support, the Maryland State Senate has passed the bill (Senate Bill 465) that would ban the possession or distribution of shark fins in the state.  Now, it will be heard in the House of Delegates.  This legislation will establish Maryland as the first state on the east coast to join these other states in ensuring we are not contributing to the supply and demand of shark fins.

What You Can Do!
If you live in Maryland, please contact your delegates and let them know you support the “Shark Fin Ban” bill.  They need to hear from you!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Save the Sharks!

Many people think of sharks as frightening, sharp-toothed predators, far from being in need of our protection. In fact, people are more inclined to believe that we humans need protecting from these creatures. This couldn’t be farther from the truth: shark populations worldwide are in danger of collapse due to fishing pressures stimulated by the global demand for shark fin soup.

Every year, fins from tens of millions of sharks are used for this traditional, non-nutritional meal. Many species have been depleted nearly to the brink of extinction. As predators at or near the top of marine food webs, sharks help maintain the balance of marine life in our oceans.

Shark populations must be protected from the practice of overfishing. The National Aquarium and its partners, including the National Wildlife Federation and Oceana, are advocating on behalf of legislation that will close loopholes in current legislation that bans shark finning. We welcome your support!

Why Sharks Need Our Help

Unlike many fish species, sharks are slow to mature and have very few offspring, making them vulnerable to overexploitation. The sandbar and sand tiger sharks are two species in our mid-Atlantic waters that have faced great fishing pressure. 

Sandbar shark

Sandbar Shark at the National Aquarium


The sandbar shark, which utilizes Delaware Bay as a pupping ground, can take up to 14 years to mature, has a gestation of 11–12 months, and gives birth to 6–10 pups. The females breed only every other year. These young sandbar sharks are closely tied to the health of the marine ecosystem.

Research shows that the massive depletion of sharks has cascading effects throughout the ocean’s ecosystems. In Maryland, the depletion of sharks has caused an increase in cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay, which threaten the oyster industry.

In the 30 years the National Aquarium, Baltimore, has been open, sharks have gone from a commercial fishery the federal government declared underutilized to the brink of extinction. In that time, hammerhead shark populations in the Atlantic have decreased by nearly 93%. Since 1986, all recorded shark populations in the northwestern Atlantic, with the exception of mako sharks, have declined by more than 50%.

Scientists warn that continual overfishing of sharks has decimated the population, which continues to dwindle and cannot sustain the current rates. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species estimates that 30% of open ocean sharks are threatened with extinction.

What We Can Do

Recently, the National Aquarium took a stand to support the 2010 Shark Conservation Act, but we need to do more. Current federal and Maryland laws banning shark finning control shark handling practices, but do not restrict the number of sharks killed just for their fins, or the substantial market for shark fins that creates economic incentives to overfish sharks for their fins.

One of the most effective ways to protect sharks is to eliminate the market for fins by prohibiting their sale. California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington have all banned the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins, and now it’s our opportunity to lead.

With our support, the Maryland Legislature has introduced bills (Senate Bill 465 and House Bill 393) that would ban the possession or distribution of shark fins in the state. This legislation will establish Maryland as the first state on the East Coast ensuring we are not contributing to the supply and demand of shark fins.

The National Aquarium’s shark expert, Andy Dehart, will be testifying at both hearings in February, and the Aquarium’s Director of Conservation Laura Bankey and Director of Government Affairs Mark Yost are working closely with our partners to support the legislation as it moves through legislative channels.

What You Can Do

Let your state representatives know you care about sharks, and all the species in the marine ecosystem that depend on them! Our partners at Oceana have initiated an online advocacy campaign to support the shark fin ban in Maryland. Sign our letter today, and help save the sharks!


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