U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., has brought back his proposal for the U.S. Commerce Department to increase regulation on the international shark trade.
Towards the end of last month, Webster brought back his “Sustainable Shark and Fisheries Trade Act” proposal which is being backed by cosponsors from both sides of the aisle including fellow Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Matt Gaetz and Ted Yoho.
"As a Floridian and member of the House Natural Resources Committee, responsible oversight of our nation’s wildlife, environment, and fishing industry is one of my priorities," Webster said when he unveiled the proposal. "American fishermen have made sacrifices to rebuild and sustain our shark populations. In the United States, we hold high standards for conservation and fishery management. "
The bill “would require any country that seeks to export shark, ray, and skate to the US to first demonstrate it has a system of science-based management to prevent overfishing and a prohibition on the practice of shark finning" and ensure other nations “must also receive certification from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that its fisheries management policies are on par with US practices” and modifies the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act.
“By holding imports to the same standards that domestic fisheries already meet, this bipartisan legislation levels the playing field for our fishermen and helps maintain vibrant and economically-viable fishing communities, both on U.S. shores and around the world,” Webster’s office insisted.
Webster also reeled in the support of a number of different groups.
"I am grateful for the support of conservation and fishing organizations across the country including, Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Palm Beach Zoo, SeaWorld, Zoo Miami Foundation, Florida Aquarium, Southeastern Fisheries Association, Directed Sustainable Fisheries, and the Wildlife Conservation Society," Webster said.
The issue is not a new one for Webster who brought out the proposal last March. Towards the end of April, two Senate Republicans--Marco Rubio of Florida and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska--introduced the bill in the upper chamber.
“Sharks play an important role in maintaining the health of the ocean ecosystems for which Florida is known for,” said Rubio when he brought out the Senate version. “Sharks are already sustainably and humanely harvested in federal waters per U.S. law, providing sustained economic benefits to coastal communities through fishing, trade, and tourism. This bill will help promote those same standards for sustainable and humane shark harvesting among our global trade partners as well. This bill protects international shark populations as well as the fishermen in Florida and throughout the U.S. who continue to fish by the rules.”
“While the practice of shark finning is already banned in U.S. waters, we do have a small population of fishermen who legally harvest whole sharks for their meat, oil, and other products,” said Murkowski. “This legislation sets a strong policy example for global nations that wish to prevent shark finning in their waters, while respecting the cultures of communities that rely on subsistence, protecting the rights of American fisherman that operate in the legal shark fisheries, and supporting the efforts of shark conservationists. Together, we can find solutions to protect our fisheries, our communities, and our marine ecosystems, worldwide.”
Webster’s bill has at least two committee stops at the U.S. House Natural Resources and the Ways and Means Committees before it hits the House floor. So far, there is no version of the bill in the Senate yet.