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Attack Survivors Ask the UN to Save Sharks

September 14, 2010

MIAMI, Fla. - Of the 70 or so shark attacks worldwide last year, 19 took place in Florida waters. Now, survivors from Florida and around the world are in New York, calling on the United Nations to protect the fish that attacked them. They want the U.N. to ban hunting of shark species that are threatened with extinction, and put limits on all shark hunting through a Sustainable Fisheries resolution being considered.

Matt Rand, Director of Global Shark Conservation for Pew Environment Group, says more than 70 million sharks are killed each year, primarily for shark fin soup.

"The hunter has now become the hunted; sharks are in severe demand and if they are caught they are primarily killed for the luxury item of shark fin soup. So, sharks have a lot more to be afraid of from us than we do of them."

Rand says shark fin soup is a luxury costing about $100 a bowl, not a food source.

Some fisherman argue that a ban would unfairly restrict their ability to make a living. Rand says recent studies found more than 30 percent of all shark species are threatened or near extinction.

Debbie Salamone from Orlando says shark attacks are rare and accidental. She was swimming at the Cape Canaveral National Seashore in waist-deep water when she was bitten by a shark, which led her to go back to school to get a master's degree in environmental policy and work on shark conservation.

"If people like us, who have been attacked by sharks, can speak up for sharks, then gosh - everyone should see the value in saving them. We're the best spokespeople sharks could ever have."

Paul de Gelder is a diver in the Royal Australian Navy who lost his hand to a shark while conducting counter-terrorism exercises in Sydney Harbor. He says he made the trip to New York to convince the U.N. to take action before it's too late.

"I don't particularly want to have to talk to my kids about sharks and tell them that we wiped them off the face of the planet, and I'm afraid that we're going to have to go to the museum and see them with the dinosaurs."

Discussion of the Sustainable Fisheries resolution begins this week at the United Nations.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL