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February 21, 2012

New York Legislators Urged to Protect Sharks and Oceans

Legislation Introduced to End Cruel and Unsustainable Shark Fin Trade

Humane Society International, Oceana, WildAid, NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, Shark Savers, Born Free, COARE, Share Research Institute

A coalition of animal welfare, environmental and conservation organizations joined New York State Assembly Members Alan Maisel, D-Brooklyn, Grace Meng, D-Flushing, and Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, to support a new bill to end New York’s contribution to the dire collapse of shark populations worldwide. If enacted, New York will join four Pacific states – California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington – and the U.S. territories of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands in similar actions to provide critical protection to sharks and preserve the health of the world’s ocean ecosystems by banning the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins. The bipartisan state legislation, A.7707a/S.6431 is sponsored by Assembly Members Maisel and Meng in the Assembly and by Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, in the Senate.

“Action to ban the barbaric practice of shark fining is long overdue,” said Assembly Member Maisel. “Sharks occupy the top of the marine food chain and are a critical part of the ocean ecosystem. I am honored to join with Assemblywoman Meng and Senator Grisanti in this historic effort to prevent the possession, sale and trade in shark fins in New York State. Our success will hopefully lead to nationwide protection for these magnificent creatures.”

“I would like to congratulate my colleagues Assembly Member Maisel and Senator Grisanti for taking the lead on this initiative,” said Assemblywoman Meng. “Shark finning is an irresponsible practice which kills millions of sharks every year. Unless we act now, global shark populations will be greatly affected for many years to come."

“New York must not be complicit in the reprehensible practice of shark finning, which has led to the demise of shark populations worldwide,” said Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal. “With the passage of bill A.7707a, which I am proud to-cosponsor with Assembly Members Maisel and Meng, the possession and sale of shark fins will become illegal here, and we will join the entire West Coast in banning a cruel practice that is wreaking havoc on our oceanic ecosystems.” 

“I am proud to be the Senate sponsor of A.7707a/S.6431, prohibiting the possession, sale, and trade of shark fin in New York,” said Sen. Grisanti. “The decimation of the shark population is a serious concern as it has a detrimental trickle-down effect for the entire oceanic food chain. With the shark population in serious peril, and other countries and states passing legislation to protect sharks, New York should be a leader in extending protection to these magnificent animals.”

Statements from each participating organization are included below:

Patrick Kwan, New York state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “New York should not be a haven for the cruel, wasteful and unsustainable trade in shark fin. The Empire State has long taken action to protect other threatened and endangered species such as tigers, elephants and bears, now it’s time we start protecting sharks and stop contributing to this cruelty and help end the inhumane and ecologically devastating practice of shark finning worldwide.”  

Dr. Michael Hirshfield, Oceana’s chief scientist and senior vice president for North America said: “Eating shark fins is as absurd as eating tiger paws. Demand for shark fin soup is responsible for the slaughter of these magnificent creatures so essential to the health of our oceans. Oceans without sharks are oceans out of balance, which means trouble for everyone who depends on oceans for food, jobs and enjoyment.”

Iris Ho, wildlife campaigns manager of Humane Society International, said: “Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year to meet global demand for shark fins. Many have their fins sliced off and are then tossed back into the ocean to suffer a painful death. We applaud the humane leadership of Senator Mark Grisanti and Assembly Members Alan Maisel and Grace Meng for championing this historic effort to end this cruelty and protect shark populations and ocean ecosystems.”

Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid, said: “These are ecosystems that have evolved over millions and millions of years. As soon as you start to take out an important part of it, it's like a brick wall, you take out bricks and eventually it's going to collapse.”

Sarah Chasis, oceans initiative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “Worldwide, shark populations are in steep decline, threatening a cascade of devastation down the ocean food chain. We know that shark-finning is a significant cause of this decline and we know how to stop it. New York’s shark legislation will eliminate our state's contribution to the demand that drives the practice of finning.”

Alejandra Goyenechea, international counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, said: “Finning is decimating the world's shark populations at an alarming rate and now New York has a chance to join the worldwide movement dedicated to halting this practice and ensuring this species' survival. This is truly an example of 'Think globally, act locally'."

Michael Skoletsky, executive director of Shark Savers, said: “Sharks are critically important to a healthy marine environment and divers like me have grown to appreciate sharks as being intelligent and graceful animals. New York should not participate in the deadly shark fin trade that is primarily responsible for devastating shark populations throughout the world.”

Tracy Coppola, program associate for Born Free USA, said: “Born Free USA strongly believes that one cannot effectively protect sharks without eliminating the market for shark fins. Sharks face many threats in today’s oceans, but the practice of ‘shark finning’ is by far the cruelest of all. It is time for New York to speak out against this unspeakably cruel practice. We commend Senator Grisanti and Assembly Members Maisel and Meng for their leadership on this important issue.”

Christopher Chin, executive director of The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education, said: “Sharks are vital for healthy ocean ecosystems, but their populations have declined dramatically the last few decades as a result of human greed and lack of understanding. Animals at the top of the food chain, such as sharks, have few natural predators, so they are slow to mature and have very few young. As a result, they are extremely sensitive to fishing pressures, and are slow to recover from overfishing.”

Marie Levine, executive director of the Shark Research Institute, said: “Much of the shark fin trade uses fins hacked off living sharks. If we found dogs and horses with their legs severed, bleeding and dying, the public outrage would be deafening. The difference is that finning takes place at sea, out of sight. Because the trade is largely unregulated and unmonitored, and finning often takes place beyond national and state jurisdiction, the most effective method to bring an end to this brutal practice is through legislation such as this.”

Facts:

  • The fins from up to 73 million sharks are used to make shark fin soup each year.
  • Conservation enforcement and finning bans in the U.S. alone are not enough to conserve sharks. A ban on shark fin products, such as A.7707a/S.6431 proposes, is the most effective way to eliminate the demand for shark fins and to eradicate shark finning around the world.  
  • Shark fin is often the most expensive item on restaurant menus and typically served simply as a symbol of status. It has no nutritional value and is the main driver of the multi-billion dollar international shark fin trade. The dish is highly controversial because of the manner in which shark fins are harvested and the precarious status of many shark populations.  
  • In 2011, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act to strengthen the federal law against shark finning at sea and require that sharks be landed with their fins still attached.

 

Media Contacts:

Humane Society of the United States, Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org
Oceana, Dustin Cranor, 954-348-1314, dcranor@oceana.org
WildAid, Eric Desatnik, 415-834-3174, desatnik@wildaid.org
NRDC, Jenny Powers, 212-727-4566, jpowers@nrdc.org
Defends of Wildlife, Brian Bovard, 202-772-0284, bbovard@defenders.org
Shark Savers, Michael Skoletsky, 917-612-7501, michael.skoletsky@sharksavers.org
Born Free USA, Rodi Rosensweig, 203-270-8929, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org
COARE, Christopher Chin, 510-495-7875, media@coare.org
Shark Research Institute, Marie Levine, 609-921-3522, marie@sharks.org

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