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Leonardo DiCaprio, Morgan Freeman Join Call to Ban Sale of Shark Fins in 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.
"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.
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.
"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:
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Poverty and violence in Central America are major factors driving migration to the United States. But there's another force that's often overlooked: climate change.
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Oliver Leighton Barrett is with the Center for Climate and Security. He says that in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, crime and poor economic conditions have long led to instability.
"And when you combine that with protracted drought," he says, "it's just a stressor that makes everything worse."
Barrett says that with crops failing, many people have fled their homes.
"These folks are leaving not because they're opportunists," he says, "but because they are in survival mode. You have people that are legitimate refugees."
So Barrett supports allocating foreign aid to programs that help people in drought-ridden areas adapt to climate change.
"There are nonprofits that are operating in those countries that have great ideas in terms of teaching farmers to use the land better, to harvest water better, to use different variety of crops that are more resilient to drought conditions," he says. "Those are the kinds of programs I think are needed."
So he says the best way to reduce the number of climate change migrants is to help people thrive in their home countries.
Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee / ChavoBart Digital Media.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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