Your action needed: Write a letter in support of Guam's shark fin ban

Posted on January 25, 2011
Written by: Shark Savers

We need your help to support a new bill in Guam's legislature to ban shark fin trade. Shark Savers has teamed with WildAid and Shark Defenders to support legislation to ban the shark fin trade and to broadly protect sharks and mantas in CNMI, Guam and throughout the Pacific.

Please write a letter or email to support this new bill on or before January 30, 2011. You can email your letter to Shark Defenders will introduce our collective testimony at an upcoming hearing.

Here is some background:

Earlier this week, Guam Vice Speaker BJ Cruz and Guam Natural Resources Committee Chair Senator Rory Respicio introduced Bill No. 44-31, banning the sale and possession of shark fins and manta parts in Guam. This action follow’s the passing of a similar measure in the Northern Mariana Islands, and a total ban on shark products in Hawaii that went into effect in July 2010. A hearing for Bill No. 44-31 is set for Tuesday, February 1. Download: Guam_44-31.pdf.

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, however, disrupt the commercial take of sharks and fins, which is beneficial to all fishing communities.

Your letter, explaining your reasons on why sharks are important to the ocean ecosystem and why such legislation is necessary in the form of testimony will be most valuable. Guam is GMT +10, and so we need to get your letters by January 30 to aggregate them in time for the hearing on February 1.

No matter where you live, the Guam legislature should hear from you. The shark fin trade is a global problem and it effects shark populations and ocean health worldwide.  Meanwhile, the newer trade in manta gill rakers could devastate mantas very quickly and needs to be stopped!

Your letter should include:

1. Your name.
2. Where you live.
3. Who you are and what you do.
4. Your reason for wanting to protect sharks.
5. A request to “please pass Bill No. 44-31 with no weakening amendments.
6. Why not finish your letter saying something nice about Guam and the Pacific?

Why is it important to pass this bill to protect sharks and mantas?

  1. Sharks are in trouble for the many reasons. The IUCN Shark Specialist Group has found that 1/3 of all shark species are threatened or near threatened with extinction. Another 50% of species do not have enough data to determine their conservation status.
  2. Sharks cannot withstand directed fishing pressure. Sharks are slow growing, mature late, and produce few young, and biologically are not able to adapt to modern fishing pressures.
  3. Sharks are vital to maintaining healthy marine ecosystems. Sharks have been the ocean’s top predators for 400 million years, but only in the last 50 have they become prey. Removing predators from ecosystems can cause disastrous cascading effects, including the collapse of commercial fisheries and degradation of coral reef systems.
  4. Sharks are extremely valuable alive. They are the #1 attraction to divers, with one live reef shark valued at tens of thousands of dollars per year to dive tourism -- year after year!
  5. The shark fin trade is driving the overfishing of sharks. Sharks that were previously caught as bycatch of other fisheries and released are now landed for their valuable fins.  Many of them are also "finned", with 95% of the animal dumped.
  6. This bill closes the major the loopholes, greatly simplifies enforcement and takes away the incentive land sharks or fin them. No market to sell the fins = no incentive to land sharks!
  7. This bill also includes protection for rays, in particular manta rays, which are now being targeted for their gill rakers!  New evidence shows that mantas don't mature until 15 to 20 years of age, and only give birth to one pup every six years!!

These beautiful, gentle giants can be fished out very quickly with little to no change of recovery.  Stopping the trade in manta parts will set a new precedent for protecting these breathtaking animals.

Your letter need not be long. Here is a draft letter:

Honorable Rory J. Respicio
Majority Leader
Suite 302
155 Hesler St.
Hagåtña, Guam 96910

January 25, 2010

Dear Senator Respicio:

Thank you for introducing Bill No. 44-31, banning the sale and possession of shark fins on Guam. My name is Joe Smith and I live in Australia. I am an accountant by trade, but I am also an avid scuba diver.

When I am diving, there is nothing more exciting to see than a shark. I’ve been diving for years, and I can tell you that there just aren’t as many sharks in the water as there used to be. Your shark fin ban is visionary and serves as a model for my country to follow.

I urge you to pass Bill No. 44-31 with no weakening amendments. I actually visited Guam as a child, and now I hope to come back one day and dive with your sharks.

Sincerely yours,

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