Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shark Fin Legislation: Support efforts in Guam and Northern Mariana Islands

Building the need for shark conservation, one piece of legislation at a time, there are two important shark fin bills - one for Guam and the other for the Northern Mariana Islands - that are coming to a head and could use the support of those who feel that the rapid depletion of the worldwide shark populations due to industrial shark fishing must come to an end. Both of these bills have strong supporters within the island governments but there is also strong resistance from fishing interests and lobbying from shark product distributors.

I received an email today from Stefanie Brendl who, as a Hawaiian shark diving operation owner, worked diligently to support the Hawaiian ban of shark fins that was passed in May, 2010. Following many email conversations over the past few years, I was pleased to have Stefanie be on the shark conservation panel I organized for the BLUE Ocean Film Festival in Monterey, CA last August. At the time, she was in discussions with WildAid and other major NGOs on how to capitalize on Hawaii's bold move to protect sharks and export "anti-shark fin fever" to other countries. She has been a very busy person ever since.

Here is her latest update on the status of the Guam and CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) legislation. They both could use your written support - not bellicose rants, mind you, but respectful and well-thought out, intelligent responses. And a few well-chosen facts or scientific references wouldn't hurt either - politicians respond to data as well as opinions.

Time again for more shark fin bill action!
Some of you will have already heard about the shark fin bills (based on last years Hawaii fin bill) in progress in Guam and the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).

CNMI legislator Diego Benavente introduced almost the exact same bill as Hawaii last August, prohibiting possession and trade of shark fins. The measure has traveled through the House and Senate and has made it to Governor Fitial's desk, waiting to be signed into law. The opposition has mounted a last minute full blown effort to kill this bill. All hands are needed to help this bill take the last hurdle.
When Senator Hee and I were there in December, Governor Fitial stated that he would be in support, but lobbying by opposition has caused a delay of the signing and has endangered passage of this bill. Short, but powerful statements from all Shark and Ocean conservation organizations will help push this over the finish line.
We didn't need it until now.
But its time to bring everything we have to the table! Passage of this bill is key to setting the pace in the region. With Guam and other Islands considering shark fin legislation it is imperative that this bill will pass into law!

So please take a few minutes to urge Governor Fitial to sign bill HB 17-94

Deadline: Now

Send email or call
(670) 664-2282

(CNMI time zone is GMT +10)

Vice Speaker BJ Cruz and Senator Rory Respicio of the Guam legislature introduced a similar measure last week. see attached bill 44-31.
Strong opposition is already mounting in Guam, mostly from the fishing community and some members of WESPAC (Western Pacific Fisheries Council, the regional Fisheries Management Organization). Some of this opposition is based on the misunderstanding that this bill will affect local fishermen, but as they do not fin sharks, (which is now illegal due to the Federal Shark Conservation Act), this bill will not hinder their fishing activities. It will disrupt the commercial take of sharks and fins, which is beneficial to all fishing communities.
Explaining your view on why sharks are important to the ocean eco system and why such legislation is necessary in the form of testimony will be most valuable.

The first scheduled public hearing will be next week on Feb 1st. In order to get traction for this bill we need as many supportive statements as possible submitted before the hearing. See message and instruction from Senator Cruz' office below. I have attached the bill and the hearing notice.

Message from Senator Cruz' office
Please find enclosed in the attachment the memo related to the time and date for the Public Hearing for Bill No. 44-31 (COR). The hearing is for 5:30PM on February 1, 2011. Please attend this meeting and submit as much written and oral testimony and supporting data as possible. The best way to neutralize the opposition and support the environment is to turnout in mass numbers with knowledge and information.

Please submit written testimony, scientific documentation, essays, and petitions to the address below. Please Cc Mike Lydia when you send electronic documents and feel free to drop documents at the Office of Vice Speaker Cruz so that they may be transmitted to the Office of Senator Respicio.

(Guam time zone is GMT +10)

Honorable Rory J. Respicio
Majority Leader
Suite 302
155 Hesler St.
Hagåtña, Guam 96910
Ph.: (671) 472-7679/3545/6
Fax: (671) 472-3547
Committee on Rules, Federal, Foreign & Micronesian Affairs, and Human & Natural Resources

Mike Lydia email:

Learn more about the CNMI legislation on its supporters'
Facebook page.
Learn more about the Guam legislation from Shark Defenders.

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