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Leonardo DiCaprio, Morgan Freeman Join Call to Ban Sale of Shark Fins in U.S.

Animals
Leonardo DiCaprio, Morgan Freeman Join Call to Ban Sale of Shark Fins in U.S.

Leonardo DiCaprio, oscar-winning actor and well-known advocate for the planet, has joined the #FinBanNow call to end the sale of shark fins in the U.S.

On June 23, Oceana, along with four members of congress, introduced the Shark Fin Elimination Act of 2016 (S.3095/H.R.5584), beginning the call to action. The bill would ban the sale of shark fins in America. The act of shark finning—cutting a shark's fins off and discarding its body at sea where it could drown, bleed to death or be eaten alive—is already illegal in U.S. waters.


The bill was introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Camacho Sablan (I-MP). DiCaprio isn't the only celebrity to back their fin ban call. Morgan Freeman also joined the cause.

"Sharks are being killed for their fins, much like rhinos and elephants have been decimated due to the demand for their horns and tusks," Freeman said in an Oceana press release.

"While shark finning is banned in U.S. waters, we continue to buy, sell and trade shark fins throughout the country. By allowing the trade of shark fins within our borders, the U.S. continues to contribute to this global problem. The Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act would not only get the U.S. out of the shark fin trade business, but it would also reinforce the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation."

Five of the 11 countries that export fins to the U.S. do not have shark finning bans, according to an Oceana report. It is very likely that those products come from sharks that have been finned.

Oceana

It is hard to track how many shark fins are exported from and imported to the U.S. because of labeling rules. The U.S. requires shark fins to be labeled as such only if they are dried, Oceana said. Therefore, if shark fins are fresh, frozen, on ice or processed in another way, they do not have to be labeled.

Discrepancies in reports between the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the U.S.'s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) show just how complex the labeling problem is. Oceana's report explains the complexity of the issue:

According to the FAO, other countries reported exporting 1,012 metric tons of shark fins to the United States in 2007. However, that same year, the NOAA only reported 28.8 metric tons of shark fin imports. Similar discrepancies appear in U.S.-reported exports. In 2011, NOAA reported 38 metric tons of shark fin exports from the United States, yet according to the FAO, other countries reported importing 295 metric tons of shark fins from the United States.

"Right now, it is impossible to know if a shark fin in the United States is a product of finning," Lora Synder, campaign director at Oceana, said. "A national fin ban would remove that uncertainty and shut down the U.S. as a market for shark fins. It would also reinforce the status of the United States as a global leader in shark conservation. There's no place for shark fins in the United States."

Fins from 73 million sharks end up in the shark fin trade annually, Oceana reported.

Oceana

"Shark finning, which leaves these animals to die a slow and painful death at the bottom of the ocean, is a cruel practice that needs to be stopped," Rep. Royce said. "When the United States leads, others follow. We should set an example by eliminating the shark fin trade rather than providing a market to incentivize this illicit activity."

Earlier this year, the U.S. banned nearly all commercial elephant ivory trade in the country. The new rules, which take effect July 6, limit the import of sport-hunted trophies to two per hunter and prohibit the sale of ivory that was part of a move or inheritance.

Watch Oceana's #FinBanNow video below:

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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