As we all know, sharks are in trouble. Suffering from a laundry list of problems from overfishing, to habitat loss, to pollution, to a rapidly changing environment brought on by anthropogenic climate change, many species from the smalltooth sawfish to the daggernose sharks are teetering on the verge of extinction. The daggernose shark so endangered that the National Marine Fisheries Services got off it’s ass on May 9, 2017 to declare it an endangered species – under the Trump administration. That’s like the Flat Earth Society endorsing Buzz Aldrin for President of the Moon.
And our normally ossified, do-nothing Legislative branch took time out of finding ways to further crater their approval rating to actually do something to help sharks as well.
It’s a big deal for sharks, especially considering that the United States (and in particular, Savannah, GA) is exporting sharks caught in American waters (and adjacent international waters) to China in order for shark fin soup. From the Savannah Morning News:
“For the last three years the port of Savannah has been the U.S. leader in the export of shark fins, a legal but controversial trade item used to make shark fin soup, a delicacy in parts of Asia.
Federal fisheries data show that although no shark fin was exported from Savannah in 2013, the trade here jumped in the following years from 18,444 pounds in 2014 to 25,765 pounds in 2015. That amounts to about $1.2 million in shark fins over the two years. Last year through November the export amounted to 19,171 pounds, valued at $559,845. In each case the shark fins were shipped to Hong Kong.”
Now, as mentioned in the article, some notable shark conservationists and scientists have come out against the Act, from OCEARCH’s Chris Fischer to David Shiffman, but with groups such as Oceana, Shark Angels, and more coming out in favor of the ban, personally I think the benefits outweigh the existential risks. The most common concern about shark fin bans being if they can’t get sharks here, they’ll get them elsewhere – and I would suggest that they CAN’T get them elsewhere, with governing bodies as small as the Nation of Palau to the European Union banning either shark finning or harvesting sharks altogether, hence why Savannah went from “No Shark Fins” in 2013 to “OMGZ ALL THE SHARK FINS” in 2016.
And across the political spectrum, politicians appears to agree, from Texas Trump loyalist Blake Farenthold to California liberal stalwart Barbara Lee, congressfolk are actually giving a shit and co-sponsoring this bill to shepherd (or if you prefer, strand hunt) it through the House.
And you might be saying: “Well, Klute, they represent states with coastlines and fishing industry concerns, they’ve got staff that probably gets lobbied all the time for marine issues.” And no doubt, you’re right, but it’s not just representatives from states with coastlines who are on board. Here are the current sponsors from Arizona:
That’s over half the Arizona delegation. Go Arizona! As one of the American states that borders the Mexican state of Sonora, we’re a port of entry for fish caught in the Sea of Cortez, and I would be VERY surprised if shark fins didn’t make it through Arizona on their way to other parts of the world. Two Republicans (one happens to be uberconservative Republican David Schweikert) , and all of Arizona’s Democrats. Well, almost all of Arizona’s Democrats. Meet the one who stands with the three Republican holdouts by refusing to co-sponsor this legislation.
Sinema’s an ambitious and successful politician. A former Green, she went from publicly identifying herself as a Prada socialist and one of the United States only LGBTQ* politicians, to palling around with conservatives Matt Salmon and Russell (the dude wrote SB1070) Pearce, and has basically stayed a Democrat because that’s where her base lies, but she votes against her constituents interests on a regular basis from against Net Neutrality, to against Obamacare, to against keeping climate change in check. Just to keep it perspective, Sinema’s district went almost 2-to-1 against Trump and for Clinton in 2016.
“Well, aren’t you touting bipartisanship in relation to this bill?,” you might be asking, with a follow-up of “Why are you pillorying her for bi-partisanship on other issues, and then scorching her for not joining up with the bi-partisan team here?”. Both are fair points. Here’s my answer.
I don’t know what Sinema stands for. A cynical observer would suggest that her previous “bi-partisan” votes were meant to give her cross-party appeal when she finally decides to run for Senator or Governor, voting for them knowing the bills were doomed to get vetoed when they reached then-President Obama’s desk. A more depressing view is that as Sinema has remained in power, she’s gotten more conservative, and as I mentioned earlier, her base is still liberal, so she hasn’t pulled the trigger on switching parties, knowing she’d likely lose a primary on either side if she made those noises, but no longer cares about the issues that helped launch her career.
I do know that neither her staff nor the Congresswoman herself has responded to numerous requests for her to get on the trolley when it comes to protecting sharks (I got some incomprehensible response about asking her to sign on to smalltooth sawfish protections a few years back – but at least it was a response).
So I’m asking you, the reader, to help me out here. If you live in Arizona Congressional District 09, please go ahead and write her, and ask her to co-sponsor H.R.1456 – Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017. You can either click the text or copy: https://sinemaforms.house.gov/forms/writeyourrep/ in your browser.
It’s not like we’re asking her to go out in a Zodiac and take on the Chinese fishing fleet single-handedly. We’re asking her to co-sponsor legislation that’s a win/win for her AND sharks. She gets to bolster her environmental cred (assuming that this is still an appeal for her) and sharks get to not be killed for soup. Seems like a no-brainer to me. I mean, Congressman Duck Pajamas sees the value in voting for this… how can Sinema NOT?