Wednesday, March 19, 2008

9th Circuit creates questionable loophole in shark finning act

The San Diego Union Tribune reported on a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal that has opened up a huge loophole in the Shark Finning Prohibition Act (SFPA). The decision, available here in pdf format, involved the government's seizure of 64,695 pounds of shark fins from a United States vessel. The vessel had purchased the fins at sea from other boats.

Despite recognizing that Congress expressly enacted the SFPA to “eliminate the wasteful and unsportsmanlike practice of shark finning” and explained that the purpose of the Act was to "eliminate shark-finning by addressing the problem comprehensively at both the national and international levels,” the court decided that the fins in this case were improperly seized because the boat they were on was not a fishing vessel under the law. Although the SFPA prevents aiding and assisting the practice of shark finning, the court also decided that the purchase, storage, and transportation of the fins did not amount to aiding and assisting of shark finning.

Hopefully the government will appeal this decision or move quickly to pass new legislation or regulations to close this loophole. Shark finning often involves cutting the fins from live sharks that are then dumped back into the ocean where they die from suffocation or are eaten by other sharks or animals. It is also listed as one of the probable causes for the rapid decline in shark population worldwide.

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