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Guest Opinion: Please urge your senator to support legislation protecting world’s sharks

By Ryan Orgera - | Aug 26, 2020

The U.S. House passed S. 877 in November 2019. Let’s make sure the Senate passes it this session!

Sharks are threatened globally, and this bill will help close another door to the unsustainable international fin trade.

Sharks are disappearing at an alarming rate. Every year, between 63 million and as many as 273 million sharks are killed globally, mostly for their fins. Killing sharks for their fins is incredibly shortsighted, as sharks are worth far more to our economies alive than dead.

The exportation of shark fins account for only an annual contribution of about $600,000 to our nation’s economy; yet, many of these fisheries are unsustainable and threaten the entire shark ecotourism and recreational fishing industries.

Florida has the world’s largest recreational fishing economy — tag-and-release of sharks is an important draw for anglers in our state. Without healthy shark populations, our other important fish species will fall out of balance. Protecting shark populations is the right thing to do for our economy and our environment.

Finally, the argument that the removal of U.S. shark fins from the market will lead to further exploitation of more vulnerable populations is, unfortunately, shortsighted and is an opinion held by only a very small number of shark scientists/conservationists. The United States can be and is a leader on global fisheries management, and the exit of the United States from the global shark fin trade will serve as a shining example that many other nations will follow. The potential effect of this kind of leadership renders irrelevant the argument that a U.S. exit would be bad for global sharks.

Florida has become the U.S. center for the shark fin trade, and our economy depends on live sharks more than any other. Shark-related tourism (diving) accounts for an annual contribution of $221 million in Florida. A recent study has shown that 71 percent of divers are willing to pay higher fees in order to observe sharks in the wild. The sale of shark fins account for only an annual contribution of about $340,000 to our economy; yet, many of these fisheries are unsustainable and threaten the entire shark ecotourism industry in our state.

To send an email to your senator, visit https://p2a.co/SzV4nQd.

Ryan Orgera is the chief executive officer of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Founded in 1967, the SCCF is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed.