Story & Photos by Tim Rock
Guam became the third place in the world to ban the possession and sale of shark fins and ray parts today as Guam Governor Eddie Calvo Jr. signed the legislation into law. Guam joins the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Hawaii as places that discourage and outlaw shark fin commerce.
After a lot of emotional testimony from fishermen, school students, shark lovers and an amazing show of support from an international community of ocean loving concerned citizens from well over 100 countries, Guam’s legislators passed Bill 44-31 unanimously. The bill is intended to curb the trade of shark fins in the US Territory of Guam. The bill is an act to prohibit the possession, selling, offering for sale, trading or distribution of shark fins and ray parts.
The bill was sponsored by Senator B.J. Cruz and co-sponsored by Senator Rory Respecio of Guam Legislature.
But more importantly, Guam becomes the third place in the world to officially ban possession and trade of the fins and also ray parts. A similar bill passed in January in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a large island chain adjacent to Guam.
With Palau declaring its waters a shark sanctuary in 2009, Yap having its water a manta ray sanctuary since 2008, Guam and the Nothern Mariana Islands banning fin trade, this creates a huge corridor in the western Pacific stretching 1300+ miles from north to south from Helen Reef in far southern Palau to Farralon de Parajos in the northern CNMI. It covers the vast waters and shipments points of four countries that can now prosecute those involved in the non-sustainable shark fin trade. Hawaii in the east central Pacific, a US state, has the first such law on its books passed last year.
Thus, this is a real regional victory for the western Pacific nations and their marine resources.
In Hawaii, restaurants have until June 30 to cook or dispose of their fin inventories or some hefty penalties will be imposed. California, Oregon and Washington State now have similar bills in the hopper. In fact, Washington State bill passed Senate vote by unanimous vote. And, the Republic of the Marshall Islands declared a moratorium on shark fins and sea cucumbers last week.
The shark fin trade is a wasteful industry that fins sharks for use in shark fin soup. This is considered a Chinese delicacy that must be served at Chinese weddings. The practice is roughly 6 decades old. 73 million sharks are killed only for the fins every year with the body being discarded.
Anti-fin proponents are tring to introduce sustainable alternatives like sea cucumbers or abalone as soup ingredients in order to save the world’s dwindling shark population.