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March 22, 2013

Rash of Human Attacks on Sharks Must End

Texas is now the nation’s second largest state, and it’s a vital one for animal protection. In the last few years, we’ve seen the state adopt a law to set up a framework to regulate puppy mills; crack down on cockfighting by prohibiting spectators of the blood sport, as well as the possession of paraphernalia and roosters used for fighting; include pets in protective orders; ensure that animals seized in cruelty cases are not held in shelters for a long period pending an appeal; and impose a requirement for persons convicted of animal cruelty to reimburse the shelter for cost of care. Governor Rick Perry has signed all of these bills.

But there’s still much more work to be done. The HSUS helped to organize a lobby day in Austin last week, and many of the attendees were inspired to hear 11-year-old Sawyer Chandler, daughter of TV and movie star Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights,” “Argo,” and “Zero Dark Thirty”), speak about her personal campaign to end the shark fin trade.

Sawyer and her dad joined lobby day attendees asking legislators to support H.B. 852/S.B 572, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Lucio III and Sen. Larry Taylor. This bill will ban the trade, sale and possession of shark fins with the intent to sell them, and will eliminate Texas’ contribution to the cruel and wasteful global shark fin trade.

Kyle-chandler-katie-jarl
JP Bonnelly
HSUS Texas State Director Katie Jarl with shark advocates
Sam Mathieu and Sawyer Chandler, and Emmy-winning
actor Kyle Chandler at Texas Humane Lobby Day.

Overfishing, driven primarily by the illegal fin trade, is responsible for destroying an average of more than 73 million sharks each year. An inhumane and unsustainable practice, shark finning occurs when fishermen catch sharks, cut their fins off and indifferently toss the animals back into the sea, many of them still alive. Since their carcasses are only worth pennies on the pound, many fishermen focus only on the fins.

Addressing the crowd of attendees, Sawyer explained that she became aware of this issue after receiving the documentary “Sharkwater” as a gift from her parents. The self-proclaimed future marine biologist says she hopes to study sharks when she grows up and doesn’t want them to become extinct for future generations. Not only did Sawyer speak to attendees, but she also met with lawmakers and the governor, encouraging them to vote in support of the legislation. Other children followed her lead and did the same, and legislators were delighted by the show of support and enthusiasm from all the young advocates.

And just last week, our efforts to protect sharks globally paid off when the 178 countries that are members of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species agreed to protect five species of sharks — the oceanic whitetip, the scalloped hammerhead, the great hammerhead, the smooth hammerhead and the porbeagle — and two species of manta rays. This historic decision marks the first time that commercially valuable fish species have been protected by CITES and will mean that international trade in these species will now be regulated to ensure it is not harming survival of the species. Another shark relative, the freshwater sawfish, received complete protection from international commercial trade under the treaty.

The HSUS is also working in states across the country on this issue and is actively working in New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Delaware to pass laws that close important loopholes that prop up the market for shark fins. But it doesn’t take years of experience to speak out and make a difference for animals. Sawyer and the other kids in Texas prove that no matter what your age, you can lend your voice and make an impact for animals. 

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