Posts Tagged 'maryland politics'

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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Thoughtful Thursdays: The Ongoing Restoration of Masonville Cove

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On Saturday, June 22 Masonville Cove was flooded with volunteers, eager to lend a hand in the restoration of this Baltimore City wilderness area.

Masonville Cove

A total of 71 people shared their time and talents to help clean-up debris along the shoreline, plant 4,000 native wetland grasses, and install 10 bird boxes. For many volunteers this was the first visit to Masonville Cove, and they were excited to learn about the wonderful local outdoor opportunities that this site has to offer.

Rep. Sarbanes at Masonville Cove

There was at least one energized return visitor – Congressman John Sarbanes of Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. Rep. Sarbanes was at Masonville Cove for its grand opening celebration in October of 2012, and he jumped at the chance to check-in and see how the center has evolved! Saturday’s event was also a great opportunity for Rep. Sarbanes to speak about the importance of the No Child Left Inside Act. This act aims to increase environmental education and environmental literacy standards nationwide.

“It would provide some federal funding through the Department of Education to support, at the grassroots level, getting our kids outdoors; connecting the educational instruction that they get to the environment, to the outdoors. It’s a wonderful opportunity to help support student achievement by using the environment and the way the environment brings kids’ interest alive – when they’re outdoors it makes a huge difference,” Sarbanes said.

Masonville Cove

The National Aquarium is part of the nationwide No Child Left Inside Coalition as an official supporter of the NCLI Act. “For over thirty years the National Aquarium has been inspiring thousands of children each year, helping them see their connection to the aquatic world and how they can help,” said Joe Harber, Director of Education Programs, “Environmental literacy is critical to a child’s education and preparing them for the 21st century.”

We agree with Sarbanes’ sentiment that “By connecting young people to the bay, you’re making them into stewards of the environment.” The National Aquarium is looking forward to opportunities to connect all generations of stewards to the bay through restoration events at Masonville Cove and throughout the watershed. We hope to see you out there!

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Maryland House of Delegates Passes Shark Fin Ban!

The House of Delegates has passed HB 1148 – Maryland’s proposed ban on the possession, sale and trade of shark fins! If adopted by the state Senate, Maryland would join California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington and all three U.S. Pacific territories of Guam,  American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands in passing laws to provide critical protection to sharks and to preserve the health of the world’s ocean ecosystems.

Recent studies indicate that close to 100 million sharks are killed every year – a crippling statistic for the long-term survival of these incredible creatures!

Last month, National Aquarium’s CEO John Racanelli testified before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in favor of Maryland’s proposed ban on the possession, sale and trade of shark fins. John and others spoke passionately about the need to save our sharks and how these bills will end Maryland’s involvement in the unsustainable and inhumane market for shark fins.

Among those voicing their support for this legislation was fourth-grader Keegan Taylor. Keegan, donning an anti-shark finning t-shirt, displayed her great love of sharks and eloquently urged Maryland’s legislators to pass the bill.

Aquarium CEO John Racanelli and Keegan Taylor

Aquarium CEO John Racanelli and Keegan Taylor

When asked how she became so passionate about protecting sharks, Keegan said, “I first became passionate about sharks when I was 4 years old and watched Shark Week, which I look forward to watching every year. I then got lots of books about sharks and all of the Jaws movies and some shark documentaries. I learned that the author of Jaws worked really hard to help people understand that sharks are not enemies of people since the movie made some people scared. I love sharks and have posters all over my room and have written stories about them.”

Keegan’s Top Seven Reasons Why We Must Ban the Possession or Distribution of Shark Fins:

  1. It is cruel and inhumane to fin sharks. Shark finners cut off the shark’s fin and then throw the shark back in the water to die a painful death. It would be like cutting off your arms and legs and then throwing you in the middle of the street.
  2. It is depleting the shark population, placing many species on the endangered list. If the shark population is depleted – or worse, eliminated – it will disturb the entire ecosystem of the ocean. This will impact all food sources and have a negative impact on humans and many other species. For instance, depleted blacktip and tiger shark populations along the East Coast of the U.S. led to decreased shellfish populations, which led to decreased water quality since shellfish filter water. At this rate, the oceanic ecosystem that has evolved over millions and millions of years would collapse.
  3. It is basic supply and demand. If there is no demand for shark fins because owning or distributing them is illegal, then there will be no demand and no more shark finning.
  4. Shark fins are not even healthy for you! They contain high levels of mercury and add no flavor or consistency to food. The main reason behind finning sharks is for consumer consumption, and a recent study conducted at the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank found that consuming shark fins may put consumers at risk. The study, published in the journal Marine Drugs, found that shark fins from Florida waters have a high concentration of a neurotoxin (β-Methylamino-L-alanine) that has been linked to Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
  5. It’s a wasteful practice. Only the fin is saved while the rest of the shark is thrown back into the ocean. Shark meat is not popular because of the high ammonia content.
  6. President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act, banning shark finning in U.S. waters, but only five states have banned the distribution and possession of shark fins so far.
  7. The European Union, which is one of the largest exporters of shark fins to Asia, banned finning in 2003, but in a loophole, companies with freezer vessels applied for “special fishing permits” that allowed them to continue if they landed the fins separately from the bodies. The issuing of these permits became standard practice, making a mockery of the law. This loophole was recently closed.

Keegan will soon be visiting National Aquarium to go behind the scenes and meet our sharks! We’ll be sure to share a recap of her visit with everyone!

Act Now! Help Maryland Become a Leader in Saving Worldwide Shark Populations

Our research team tags sharks off the coast of Ocean City every year to gather data on migration and abundance!

Our research team tags sharks off the coast of Ocean City every year to gather data on migration and abundance

Shark populations worldwide are in danger of collapse due to fishing pressures stimulated in part by the global demand for a non-nutritional delicacy known as shark fin soup. Scientists now estimate that nearly 97 million sharks - or roughly 7% of their worldwide populations – are killed every year. The best way to stop this practice is to eliminate the demand, which is exactly what the National Aquarium and our partners are proposing via legislation that will help eliminate the market for shark fins in Maryland.

Current Federal and Maryland laws ban shark “finning” by requiring that sharks be caught and delivered to market with their fins intact.  However, no current laws restrict the number of sharks killed for their fins, or limit the economic incentives to overfish sharks for their fins.

The Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill – House Bill 1148 and Senate Bill 592 – that would ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins. If passed, Maryland would join Hawaii, Washington, California, Oregon, and Illinois  and would become the first state on the East Coast to end our involvement in the unsustainable and inhumane market for shark fins. This is Maryland’s opportunity to lead.

The bill is currently being debated in the House Environmental Matters Committee and will likely be debated in the House over the next two days.  Act now by calling or emailing your legislators and urge them to vote for sharks.

Sharks are integral to the health of our oceans yet worldwide fishing pressure, driven by the demand for shark fins, is simply too great to allow sharks to have sustainable populations.

As part of our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, we take very seriously our responsibility to educate guests on the majesty and importance of sharks to the worlds’ oceans.  With your help, Maryland could become a leader in saving worldwide shark populations!


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