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Legislation to end ‘savage arts’ of shark finning

On October 3, 1793 in a small town in Pennsylvania, the Northumberland Gazette published a letter from a reader called ‘M.S.’ about the “ungenerous, mean sport” of angling.
This practice, it stated, “beguiles to death” a harmless trout, drives it from one end of its habitation to the other, “in the most agonizing distress, till spent and breathless, he yields to his destiny and the savage arts of man.”
M.S. would undoubtedly feel even more outraged at the practice of civilized man today, in regard to sharks.
Dominant inhabitants of the world’s oceans, these graceful and intelligent creatures have been around since the dinosaurs roamed the land, pre-dating humans by millions of years.
Against the human predator, however, they are defenseless. Millions being killed every year, population stocks in many species have shrunk by more than 90 percent since the 1970s, threatening their extinction.
A practice that chopped off people’s arms and legs, merely to get the 3-millimeter living (and keratin producing) portion of the matrix of their nails would be considered wasteful in the extreme, and condemned even more if the victims, minus limbs, were left to bleed to death.
It’s quite like “harvesting” sharks for their rudder organ, the fins. These being hacked off, usually off live animals, these are thrown back into the ocean, drowning and bleeding to death since now unable to swim.
Flavorless but reportedly giving a chewy “feel,” shark-fin soup is marketed as a delicacy.
Its consumption, restricted to the imperial family and persons of wealth in earlier times in China, has ballooned in that country. It can cost upwards of $100 per bowl, so a CNN report in 2008, or as little as $10 a bowl in buffet-style eateries where it is now widely offered.
Sharks of any age, size, or species are fair game in the lucrative enterprise that supplies the fin commodity. The global “free-market” at its worst, one would think, or yet its best, depending on one’s view as to its purpose in “serving” human amenities and whims.
A bill in the U.S. Congress, following passage in the House of Representatives last year is headed for the Senate. The bill (S. 850), Shark Conservation Act of 2009, would end finning in U.S. waters and by U.S .registered ships through requiring that any “landed” fins, or sharks, must be “naturally attached.” It encourages other nations, through sanctions if needed, to implement shark fishing regulations consistent with those placed on U.S. fishermen.
The citizen plea of two centuries ago is apt and urgent today, in support of this bill.
“Fish are a species of animals which ought to be exempt from our tyranny,” M.S. demanded. “They inhabit an element of their own: they encroach not on our rights, nor do they destroy our property.”
Torturing and dragging them “from the bosom of their home, to feed the luxurious appetite of man ought to be discountenanced with all force.”
One hopes for sentiments along these lines from Tennessee’s senators, in regard to the Shark Conservation bill.