The Chilean Congress made history as it unanimously approved a bill to ban shark finning in its national waters on Wednesday.
The new law will prohibit the practice of cutting the tips of the shark and throwing the rest of the live animal’s body into the sea, and will levy a $4,000 to $41,000 fine for persons caught mutilating sharks in this way.
According to Christine Reed of Discovery News, “The ban effects 30 shark species that cruise the Chilean coastline, which covers an extensive stretch of the eastern Pacific all the way to the Southern Ocean. Of those sharks, 15 are specific targets for finning, including the near threatened Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) and the vulnerable Shortfin Mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus).”
“With the passage of this law, Chile becomes a leader in the protection of these animals that are so important to marine ecosystems. We knew that large quantities of shark fins were being exported from our country. This practice meant the deaths of thousands of sharks each year. With this new law we will have a critical tool to protect and recover these most exploited species,” said Alex Muñoz, Oceana vice president for South America said in a statement.
Although the bill does not prevent shark fishing altogether, it does protect these marine predators from dissection at sea–a process which inhibits species identification and proper tracking of the number of sharks caught. The ban will also reduce the number of sharks each vessel can catch under current weight restrictions: whole sharks weigh more than just fins.
The Chilean bill was first introduced in January 2011, and although it went through months of debate and editing, environmental advocates were overjoyed to see it pass without a single nay vote.
Image Credit: Flickr - usfwspacific