Posts Tagged 'shark finning'

Thoughtful Thursdays: Maryland Shark Fin Ban Signed Into Law!

government affairs and policy update

Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill prohibiting the sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins into law this morning, making Maryland the first state on the East Coast to grant sharks this crucial protection.

Governor Martin O'Malley signing the shark fin ban into law.

Governor Martin O’Malley signing the shark fin ban into law.

Our home state has now joined California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington in enacting laws regarding shark finning. Perhaps most exciting of all, the state of Delaware passed similar legislation only last night and New York is poised to do the same in the coming weeks.

Maryland’s law, which will help curb the unjust killing of approximately 100 million sharks every year, was sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Eric Luedtke and passed by the Maryland General Assembly with bipartisan support earlier this year.

There are as many as 62 species of shark found off the Atlantic coast of North America (and 12 species found right in the Chesapeake Bay). Because they have few natural predators, are slow to mature and produce very few young, shark populations are very sensitive to environmental and commercial fishing pressures. Their continued depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems around the world.

The National Aquarium worked closely with the bill sponsors, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Wildlife Federation, Oceana, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and recreational watermen on the issue. The new law provides exemptions for commercial and recreational fishermen, a museum, college, or university to possess a shark fin. The mid-Session addition of an amendment to exempt smooth-hound and spiny dogfish from the bill limits the impact on Maryland’s hard-working watermen yet still protects the most vulnerable families of sharks – large apex predators. The resulting legislation addresses both the supply and demand side of the market for shark fins by prohibiting the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of both raw and processed fins.

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. We’d like to sincerely thank all those who showed their public support of this ban and Delegate Eric Luedtke and Senator Brian Frosh for championing this legislation through the General Assembly!

Blog-Header-SarahElfreth

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!

A Blue View: The Environment Up Close at the 2013 Maryland General Assembly

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.

January 15, 2013: The Start of the Maryland General Assembly

Listen to John discuss the important environmental legislation that will be debated during this session of the Maryland General Assembly. *

The 433rd legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly opened on January 9, and with it, several environmental issues that will shape the future of life in Maryland are being debated.

Issues like shark finning, plastic consumption, hydraulic fracturing and wind energy affect the people of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed every day, and the quality of life in our state going forward.

Our government affairs team will be hard at work in Annapolis this year to advocate on behalf of these environmental initiatives.

Want to stay up to date on National Aquarium’s legislative efforts?  CLICK HERE to sign up for e-mail updates!

*Editor’s note: The audio and script for this week’s A Blue View incorrectly referred to 2013′s legislative session as the 429th. It is the 433rd.

Thoughtful Thursday: Top 12 Conservation Moments of 2012

As 2012 winds down, we are taking a look at all of the amazing things our dedicated team of staff and volunteers and like-minded conservationists were able to accomplish this year! From a full year of marine animal rescue and rehabilitation to important state and federal legislation, this year has given us hope for the future of our amazing blue planet.

For our last Thoughtful Thursday of 2012, we’re giving you our top 12 conservation moments of 2012:

Banner Bags

Every year, the Aquarium’s new marketing campaign requires updated signage, including vinyl banners to adorn our building and our respective cities. Reluctant to simply throw these materials away, our International Conservation Committee decided to transform these old banners into reusable tote bags! The project has been so popular with our own staff members, we’re having trouble keeping them on the shelves of our gift shop! This project is reflective of the Aquarium’s constant efforts to repurpose, reuse, and recycle materials.

Banner bags

International Coastal Cleanup at Ft. McHenry

National Aquarium has long been engaged in the restoration of our community’s coastal regions. In recent years, we have been focusing our efforts on regions like Fort McHenry, where volunteers and staff have removed more than 500,000 pieces of marine debris. This year, as part of  Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) joined hundreds of thousands of volunteers cleaning and restoring both coasts. Preserving our region is not only critical for the marine ecosystems, but these wetlands also help to teach students the importance of local wildlife and habitat restoration.
fort mchenry before and after

5gyres “Last Straw Plastic Pollution” Bike Tour

This year, we were fortunate to have the 5gyres team visit both our Washington, DC, and Baltimore venues to share their incredible story with the public and National Aquarium staff. A conservation organization focused on raising awareness of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” 5gyres biked 1,400 miles down the Atlantic coast to spread the word about marine debris and what we can do to clean it.

Dolphin Count

This summer marked another great year in Atlantic dolphin population monitoring. Our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) team and more than 100 volunteers made the annual trip to Ocean City in July to record dolphin sightings, an important indicator of reproduction rates and ocean health. This year’s count of 37 was surprisingly low in comparison to 2011′s 107, likely a result of weather, unusual swells, and prey availability.

Dolphins spotted off the coast of Ocean City. Credit: John Soule

Dolphins spotted off the coast of Ocean City. Credit: John Soule

RBC Blue Water Project Leadership Grant

We were humbled and grateful to receive RBC’s support for our Chesapeake Bay Initiative (CBI). Thanks to this $130,000 grant, the largest ever received from a corporation specifically designated for conservation efforts, our program will continue to engage others in protecting and restoring the habitats throughout the Chesapeake watershed. Wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay are being lost at an alarming rate as a result of coastal development, rising sea levels, and damage from non-native species.

CBI helps restore and protect wetland habitats, increasing public awareness of watershed issues and providing watershed stewardship actions for citizen volunteers, youth, and community groups.

Rescued Loggerhead Hatchling

In the week leading up to Hurricane Sandy, our MARP team was surveying the north end of the Assateague Island National Seashore. They discovered a sea turtle nest that had been incubating in the sand since late July – this was the first confirmed viable sea turtle nest ever seen in the area. Considering the incoming high winds and waves from Sandy, our team excavated the nest and one live hatchling for incubation at our Animal Care Center. Our team was able to care for the hatchling and after six weeks, it was transported to North Carolina for release!

baby loggerhead turtle

Baby loggerhead turtle hatchling and egg.

Maryland Green Travel

We were so proud to be named the first attraction to become part of Maryland’s Green Travel program. This statewide program recognizes tourism businesses committed to reducing their environmental impact. The program encourages environmentally friendly practices in all aspects of the state’s tourism industry and promotes Maryland as a green destination for the eco-minded traveler.

Floating Wetlands

In late spring, National Aquarium staff joined its partners from the Waterfront Partnership Baltimore, Biohabitats, Living Classrooms Foundation, Blue Water Baltimore, and Irvine Nature Center to launch another 2,000 square feet of floating wetlands into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This project is part of the Healthy Harbor Initiative, a regional effort to make the harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020.

Wetlands installed in their new home

Wetlands installed in their new home.

40th Anniversary of Clean Water Act

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the federal Water Pollution Control Act – the nation’s first law for protecting our most precious, irreplaceable resource. Arguably, no environmental legislation has had as much of an influence on our daily lives and health. Thanks to the Clean Water Act, huge strides have been made to protect our health and the health of the environment.

Shoreline Restoration at Indian Head

ACT! spent most of June and October at the Naval Support Facility (NSF) Indian Head and Stump Neck Annex (Indian Head, MD). Volunteers planted 45,897 native wetland grasses along the Potomac River, restoring more than 4,000 feet of shoreline! The Aquarium has partnered with NSF Indian Head since 2008, restoring sections of shoreline each year.

Our Commitment to End Shark Finning

National Aquarium, along with our partners at the Humane Society, Oceana, and the National Wildlife Federation, has been a leading supporter of legislation in Maryland to hinder the market for shark fins by prohibiting their possession and sale. Similar to making the trade of elephant ivory illegal, such legislation would ensure that shark finning and unsustainable fishing practices are not tolerated. We hope that 2013 will see an international commitment to protect these amazing animals.

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.

Menhaden – A Big Step Forward for Little Fish

Earlier this month, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission made history by voting to limit the catch of this crucial species of fish, the menhaden, by 20 percent. Commonly referred to as “the most important fish in the sea,” menhaden serves as a critical food source for much of the wildlife in the Atlantic’s marine ecosystems. By putting a catch limit on these fish, the ASMFC gave conservationists hope that enough fish can stay in the water to fulfill their ecological role.

Although it is important to take the time to celebrate 2012′s accomplishments, we know there is still much work to be done to preserve and protect our oceans and our planet. We hope you’ll join our efforts in the new year! To find out how to get involved, visit aqua.org/care.


Sign up for AquaMail

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 236 other followers