On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Shark Conservation Act of 2010. This act is set to strengthen the ban on the practice of shark finning in US waters.
While it is already banned in the US, there were some remaining loopholes within existing laws that have now been addressed. Specifically the new law requires that any vessel must land any shark with all their fins still attached and prevents non-fishing vessels from transporting any fins without carcasses.
Shark finning is the extremely cruel fishing practice where sharks are caught by either a line or trawl, and fishers slice the most valuably prized fins off of the still living and fully feeling animals. The shark is then tossed back into the ocean to suffer and slowly die as they sink to the bottom with no ability to move or swim. The fins are then sold in Asian markets to make an exotic soup for high-end, primarily, Chinese clientele.
This new law is unfortunately not nearly as landmark as the total ban on all fin sale, trade, and purchase, which Obama’s home state of Hawaii adopted this summer. However, it is none-the-less being heralded as a step in the right direction in environmental policy for the Obama administration.
This law comes only a few days after another embarrassing leak from the now infamous Wikileaks.org showed the US State Dpt. in direct collusion with the Government of Japan on the hugely controversial whaling issue; an issue which the US is supposedly, officially opposed to. In a recent set of cables from the now slow stream of document releases dubbed “Cablegate,” a number related to confidential discourses between the State Dpt. and the GOJ were included. These specifically show US State Dpt. making offers to attempt to defund the highly popular non-profit, anti-whaling group, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society by stripping it of its charitable tax status.
While nothing apparently came of this deal or at least nothing was found to justify the actions in the US, the cables themselves reflect a sentiment that has been brewing among many in the environmental base of what were once Obama supporters. This sentiment also coming in the wake of what many feel was a disastrous handling of the BP Oil spill this summer. Additionally that disaster just so happened to occur only weeks after Obama shocked the environmental community with an announcement to reopen new off-shore drilling prospects; policy not even his predecessor was willing to change.
So all things considered this latest Act is being given a great deal of generosity in its praise by the environmental community. But is it too little too late to really bring back the support of the environmental base?
If Obama truly wants to bolster his approval rating perhaps he should seek to regain the confidence of the environmentalists, as clearly there is willingness for forgiveness from that base. The independent environmental vote however, which arguably is much larger, is certainly not abhorrent to the idea of leaving him for another more consonant candidate.
After all, it has not been forgotten in the environmental community that for everything bad to say about President Bush, one of his final acts as leader of the free world was to set aside the largest amount of US waters as marine sanctuary, more than any other before him. Perhaps conservation could find its place in Conservative if the Obama administration isn’t careful and doesn’t continue to appease those whose grassroots were borrowed in many ways to plant him in his office in the first place.
To find out more about shark finning and what you can do to help stop it click here or check out the documentary Sharkwater.