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May 17, 2012

Shark Advocates Join New York City Council Member Margaret Chin to Rally for State Legislation to Protect Sharks and Oceans

Council resolution calls for end to cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade.

Oceana, WildAid, NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, Shark Savers, Born Free USA, COARE, Shark Research Institute

A coalition of animal welfare, environmental and conservation organizations joined City Council Member Margaret Chin, D-Lower  Manhattan and other city and state legislators for a rally on City Hall steps to announce her resolution in support of the state legislation to end New York’s contribution to the dire collapse of shark populations worldwide.

Resolution 1311 calls upon the New York legislature to enact and the Governor to sign A.7707a/S.6431, which would prohibit the possession, sale, offer for sale, trade, or distribution of shark fins. 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. The bipartisan state legislation has the broad sponsorship support of 58 legislators and is championed by Assembly Members Alan Maisel, D-Brooklyn, Grace Meng, D-Flushing, and Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan and Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo.

"I am proud to sponsor this resolution in support of a ban on the sale and distribution of shark fins," said Council Member Margaret Chin, D- Lower Manhattan. "As we all know, in our country the main consumers of shark fin are Asian American communities. Shark fin soup may be a time honored tradition for a small group of people but it has no place in today's society. Let's call this trade what it is: illicit, inhumane and unnecessary. I stand here today to say that I will not support an industry that thrives off cruelty."

"We must to put an end to the shark fin trade before it is too late," said Council Member Daniel Dromm, D-Queens. "The practice is both cruel and reckless, and the effects on our ecosystem have been devastating. We cannot continue to allow people to make large profits at the expense of endangering our marine life. I commend Council Member Margaret Chin for her leadership in drawing attention to this pressing issue and I urge my colleagues in government to support this resolution."

“It is my great pleasure to join with Councilwoman Chin at today’s rally to announce her resolution supporting the legislation that Senator Mark Grisanti and I have introduced,” said Assemblymember Alan Maisel, D-Brooklyn. “We must once and for all stop all activities associated with the barbaric practice of shark finning and make New York State a leader in the protection of threatened species that are an important element of our marine ecosystem.”   

“Shark finning’ is an irresponsible practice that kills millions of sharks every year. Unless we act now, global shark populations will be greatly affected for many years to come, said Assemblywoman Grace Meng, D-Flushing. “As a legislator I will continue to support legislation and efforts that will protect sharks and the overall health of oceanic ecosystems.”

“New York must not be complicit in the practice of shark finning, which has led to the extinction of shark populations around the world and wreaks havoc on our entire oceanic system,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, D-Manhattan. “By adopting this bill, which I am proud to co-sponsor, New York will join other states, including the entire West Coast, in banning the possession and sale of shark fins. New York will no longer be a refuge for those looking to make a profit from the illicit trade of shark fins.”

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.”

Amanda Keledjian, a marine scientist for Oceana said: “Eating shark fin soup is driving an unsustainable and cruel demand for the slaughter of our sharks.  These incredible animals are critical to maintaining balance within our oceans, and their depletion puts jobs and coastal health at risk.  These finning bans are an important first step in promoting shark conservation and raising awareness about the many threats these creatures face.”

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 Council Member Margaret Chin for championing this historic effort to end 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.”

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, Katie Jarl, 301-258-1483, kjarl@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

Defenders 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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