HONOLULU  (Food-News.net)  On the eve of the State of Hawaii becoming the first jurisdiction to ban sales of shark fin soup, local and international conservation groups praised the ground-breaking move as a first step to halting the decimation of global shark stocks.

Fins from up to 70 million sharks a year are used for shark fin soup often with the bodies of the animal dumped overboard dead or alive. In a recent study the world’s top shark scientists (IUCN Shark Specialist Group) reported that of 64 species of open ocean sharks and rays 32% are “threatened with extinction,” primarily due to overfishing. In addition, 24% were “near threatened,” while another 25% could not be assessed due to lack of data. Yet only 3 species have any kind of international protection and the UN CITES convention recently declined to take any action due to opposition led by Japan.

Champion of the Bill Senator Clayton Hee stated, “Hawaii is proud to be at the forefront of the movement to save threatened sharks. For native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders sharks are revered, because we recognize their ecological importance, but we have been silent for too long on the decimation of shark stocks globally.”  

Stefanie Brendl of Shark Allies said, “Globally shark catches are unregulated and unsustainable. The shark fin trade is completely unregulated worldwide. This is a first step in giving sharks a future.”

“Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years playing vital roles in marine ecosystems, but at the current rate of overfishing driven by the demand for shark fin soup they could be wiped out in a single human generation,” said WildAid director Peter Knights.

International conservation group WildAid released dramatic new evidence that proves that sharks are being finned alive for soup sold in the United States. Footage shot by WildAid shows a live tawny nurse shark dumped on an Indonesian reef with its fins removed. The film is being used in a new public service announcement for global broadcast from NBA player Yao Ming, China’s most popular star. Most Americans are unaware of the damage caused by the shark fin industry and that shark fin soup is widely available from Chinese restaurants in the U.S. WildAid’s recent survey found one third of Chinese restaurants in San Francisco serving the dish priced from $6.95 to $85 a bowl.

This unprecedented law makes it illegal to sell, possess or distribute shark fins without a permit issued by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources for shark research or educational purposes or the Hawaii Department of Health, for restaurants possessing fins prepared for consumption by July 1, 2010. Effective July 1, 2011, it will be illegal for these restaurants or retailers to sell or possess fins for shark-fin soup or other shark fin products.

The US Congress is considering the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 that would close a major enforcement loophole by requiring that the fins of sharks caught in federal waters remain naturally attached to the shark. Passage of the federal law would further strengthen and complement Hawaii’s new shark protection law.

In China, the largest market for shark fin soup there is a growing groundswell of opposition to shark fin. NBA star and China’s most popular figure, Yao Ming and other Chinese sporting and movie icons, as well as leading businessmen, are taking a stand by refusing to eat shark fin soup. Li Ning, who lit the Olympic torch and Liu Huan, who sang in the Beijing Opening ceremony, and a number of gold medal Olympians, including Americans Tara Kirk and Amanda Beard, have pledged not to eat shark fin soup and have recorded public service announcements, which have reached hundreds of millions of Chinese. The campaign has been featured on China’s CCTV networks featuring 20 Olympic gold medalists. Last month, 100 Chinese business leaders joined the pledge and Chinese eBay equivalent Alibaba stopped allowing sales of shark fin through their site.

Footage and stills available.

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