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Shark Overfishing Could Lead to Future Arizona Seafood Shortages

July 15, 2009

PHOENIX - Arizonans face possible long-term shortages and higher prices for seafood because of shark overfishing, according to the non-profit Pew Environment Group. The director of global shark conservation for Pew, Matt Rand, says studies show that, when endangered predators at the top of the food chain disappear, it upsets the balance of nature.

"You know sharks, just like the Mexican gray wolf there in Arizona, play a very important role in the ecosystem. For instance, in one study there was a direct correlation between tiger sharks and tuna population. When tiger sharks were removed, the tuna populations declined."

Rand says that's because the sharks ward off other predators and cull the sick and weak fish.

He says shark fins are highly sought after for use in the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup. Among other things, he says the bill being considered by the U.S. Senate would increase enforcement of the law against a fishing practice known as "finning."

"Fishermen will catch a shark, cut its fins off and dump the body back overboard in this extremely wasteful practice."

Rand says when shark populations are severely reduced, it takes a long time for them to recover.

"Some of these shark species take 20 years to reach sexual maturity, and when they do, they only have a few pups. And if we continue to remove 70 million sharks from the world's oceans on an annual basis, we will lose shark populations around the world."

Shark attack survivors from seven states are meeting today in Washington to support increasing protection for endangered shark species.

The Shark Conservation Act of 2009 has already sailed through the U.S. House, where Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva was a co-sponsor.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ