Shark Savers Congratulates the Northern Mariana Islands for Shark Fin Law

Posted on January 26, 2011
Written by: Shark Savers

Shark Savers (www.sharksavers.org), an international shark conservation organization, is pleased to congratulate the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) for protecting dwindling shark populations by banning the shark fin trade.

Governor Benigno R. Fitial signed the historic law today, recognizing that “sharks are one of the top predators in the marine food chain and play an important role in our ocean’s ecosystem. Sharks have characteristics that make them more vulnerable to overfishing than most fish.”

The law, House Bill No. 17-94, HD1, SD1, makes it “unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute shark fins in the CNMI”. The bill is similar to the landmark legislation recently passed in the State of Hawaii. The CNMI joins island nations and regions in taking strong actions to protect sharks, including Palau, the Maldives, and Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

Witnessing the Governor’s signing of the bill today is the Director of the award-winning filmSharkwater, Rob Stewart, who is an Advisor to Shark Savers. Mr. Stewart said, “Protecting sharks with this law is important to the CNMI, a Pacific Territory that is dependent on the oceans. It was truly inspiring to see Governor Fitial and the CNMI legislature taking this bold stand to see that its sharks are not destroyed for the shark fin trade.”

Shark populations worldwide have plummeted in recent decades to support demand for shark fin soup in Asia. Tens of millions of sharks are killed annually for their fins, with some shark populations declining by as much as 90%. Stopping the shark fin trade is a critical means to stop the depletion of shark populations, as it removes the incentive to land sharks for their fins and greatly simplifies enforcement.

“One by one, Pacific Island communities like the CNMI are taking steps to protect valuable shark species to ensure the health of their precious marine environments”, said Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director of Shark Savers. “Research suggests that preserving sharks within an ocean ecosystem helps to maintain life and species balance throughout the food chain.

The bill takes effect immediately, exempting subsistence fishing with no trade and providing a 90-day grace period for restaurants. Violation of the law results in fines between $5,000 and $30,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six (6) months on the first violation.