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March 2, 2011

Help Us End the Unspeakably Cruel Shark Fin Trade

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Dear Friend,

Shark finning is the gruesome practice of cutting a shark’s fins while it is still alive. The shark is then tossed back into the water to slowly bleed to death or drown. The fact that at least 73 million sharks — many of whom are endangered species — suffer this unspeakable fate each year is astonishing.

Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40) has introduced Senate Bill 5688 to create the crime of unlawful trade in shark fins. With an effective date of Aug. 1, 2012, SB 5688 would make it a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine to offer, buy, sell a shark fin or shark fin derivative, or to prepare or process a shark fin or derivative for commercial consumption. Violation of the proposed law also would trigger a one-year suspension of commercial fishing privileges.

The bill also would make it a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in jail, a $10,000 fine and a one-year suspension of commercial fishing privileges when the violation involves shark fins or derivatives worth more than $250, is committed with knowledge the shark was illegally caught, or is committed within five years of a prior shark finning conviction or any other prior conviction involving fish, other than a recreational fishing violation.

Sharks play a significant role in balancing fish populations in the ocean ecosystem. Because they reach sexual maturity late in life and typically birth small litters, sharks are particularly susceptible to overfishing. Marine biologists have reported a 99 percent decline in oceanic white-tip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico over the past 15 years and an 89 percent decline in hammerhead sharks in the northwest Atlantic.

Congress recognized the need to address these rapid declines by passing the Shark Conservation Act of 2010. While the act prohibits importing shark fins into the United States unless the entire shark is used, unlike SB 5688, it does not apply to foreign-registered boats and does not ban the sale of shark fins.

SB 5688 passed the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Marine Waters on Feb. 21, 2011. Please ask your senator to support SB 5688 today.

In the spirit of compassionate conservation,

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