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CA Shark Danger: Not Their Jaws But Their Fins

May 29, 2009

Surfers will be out in force along the Pacific Coast as we head toward summer, and some will be thinking about sharks in the water, though experts say it's the sharks that are in danger - from over-hunting.

Matt Rand, director of the Pew Environment Group, says, between 1926 and 2007, there were only 96 shark attacks in California waters and only seven were fatal.

"It's a very-rare occurrence that a shark attack actually takes place in California waters and that it's fatal. You have much better chance of dying by having a major incident with a vending machine."

Up to 70 million sharks are being killed each year in a quest for their fins, says Rand, which are a delicacy in some Asian cuisines. A management plan is needed to address the diminishing shark population, he adds.

Congress is debating a measure that would stop fisherman from killing sharks purely for their fins. One vessel was stopped recently with 32 tons of shark fin aboard, but the operators could not be prosecuted because it was not a fishing boat.

Julie Arner, manager of the Pew Environment Group, says Congress is crafting a measure that would apply to all vessels.

"Under the proposed law, if a ship were in U.S. waters and was carrying shark fins, those fins must be naturally attached to the shark. This is really important for enforcement of the law, and for scientific data collection."

One reason Californians should care about what happens to sharks, says Arner, is that they're a top predator. For example, sharks eat rays that prey on scallops and, with fewer sharks in the ocean, there have been drops in the scallop population as well.



Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA