Bills sinks teeth into shark finning - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Bills sinks teeth into shark finning

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - A bill that would put some teeth in the practice of shark finning locally has sparked debate among the island's fishermen. Bill 44, introduced by Senator Rory Respicio and Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz, would prohibit the possession, sale, offering for sale, trading or distribution of shark fins and ray parts.

But Guam Fisherman's Co-Op President Manny Duenas contends the lawmakers haven't done their homework, saying, "The legislation itself would conflict with federal law, that's our biggest concern there. But it also goes further to define what is subsistence, what is subsistence fishing? That really bothers me because it is a cultural thing to be a subsistence fisherman or farmer. And to say non-commercial? The bill itself was just poorly written."

The bill would make it illegal for any one to possess and distribute shark fins dead or alive. Duenas says if passed into law, the measure as it's currently written, will conflict with federal law "At the end of the day, we don't have that practice on Guam," he explained, "and to put the fishermen in a precarious situation to be subject to searches and seizures or inspections by conservation officers-any law that you create needs to be enforceable. It's really ludicrous to establish a law that isn't enforceable."

While the authors of the legislation note that the shark population is in serious jeopardy with declines both locally and worldwide, Duenas contends there's no evidence of a shortage in the region. "The fact remains that it has not depleted and I wish he wouldn't lie to the general public. Show me those documents. I've been a fishery manager for twelve years. I've worked with the fishing community for sixteen years directly and I don't see the problem existing," he added.

Tom Camacho, president of the Guam Organization of Salt Water Anglers, agrees with Duenas, saying the passage of such a bill will not allow fishermen to catch sharks for consumption. He told KUAM News, "I believe the intent is for shark finning and not for to the total ban on the catch of sharks. Sharks are a food substance that we also consume. And I think to take that away from the fishing community, it'll be a disgrace."

Other fishermen have a different opinion. Franklin Meno and Brian Quinata support the bill's intent, with Meno saying, "I'm not sure what the impact Guam will provide for the rest of the world, but if it's the first step that needs to be taken then maybe the rest of the world will learn and the people will be educated and I totally support the bill."

Quinata added, "They should leave the sharks alone. They haven't done anything to the locals so far and they should just let it be."

The bill would enforce strict penalties for those found in possession of shark fins.

Meanwhile, the bill's author is pleased that his legislation has drawn worldwide attention as two online petitions have generated thousands of signatures. Senator Respicio points out that The Petition List and Change.org have seen more than 12,000 signatures from people around the world who are in support of the bill.

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