Chile's expansive Pacific coastline became the newest no-shark-finning zone today as the global trend toward saving the ocean's top predators advances.
President Sebastián Piñera signed a law banning the practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and dumping the animal, sometimes still alive, back into the water, where it drowns or bleeds to death. The lucrative fins are typically sold to Asian markets for soup, and as recently as 2008, Chile exported 36 tons to Hong Kong.
Pew’s shark conservation team worked in Chile to help pass the law which requires that sharks are to be landed with their fins attached. In the past, dumping the bodies overboard allowed fishermen to pack more fins into their cargo holds.
The new provision will help conserve some of the 53 shark species found in Chilean waters, which stretch about 4,000 miles from the country's northern border with Peru to the Southern Ocean. Shark species targeted for their fins include declining species such as the shortfin mako, and bigeye thresher sharks.
Chile joins a growing number of countries that are taking action to save sharks. Worldwide nearly a third of all shark species are headed toward extinction and up to 73 million are killed annually just for their fins.
The United States banned shark finning earlier this year and since then the Marshall Islands and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands have enacted bans on the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins. And just within the last month, the Bahamas and Honduras created shark sanctuaries, where shark fishing is prohibited. Those countries joined Palau and the Maldives, which have passed laws based on their realization that live sharks for tourism can generate more money than dead ones.
Chile’s fisheries undersecretary, Pablo Galilea, also has pledged to require that fishermen targeting tuna or swordfish use safer fishing gear. Sharks are often caught accidentally on the miles-long fishing lines baited with thousands of hooks. These two measures will help to keep marine diversity in the sea and out of the fin market.
Pew will continue to work with the Chilean government to safeguard threatened species and establish sanctuaries that are important for sharks and other marine life.
View all of our global shark conservation work with our interactive map: