Press Release by The Center For Marine Conservation
Sacramento, CA--The Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) succeeded in securing permanent protection for California's white sharks on Saturday when Governor Pete Wilson signed Senator Mike Thompson's bill (SB 144) into law prohibiting the deliberate take of white sharks in state waters. This landmark victory in shark protection came about through the efforts of CMC in cooperation with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and was supported by over two dozen conservation, fishing, surfing, and scientific organizations.
"This proactive measure ensures needed protection for these magnificent, yet vulnerable animals," said CMC President Roger McManus.
This new law repeals the sunset date on a 1993 state law that made intentional taking of white sharks illegal in California waters. Exceptions to the law are made for scientific and educational research and incidental catch in selected net fisheries. Thompson's bill is the lead ship in an unprecedented 'flotilla' of 30 coast and ocean protection bills to become California law.
"White shark populations are naturally small, but they play a crucial role in marine ecosystems along the California coast" said Tom Okey, a marine ecologist in CMC's Pacific Regional Office in San Francisco. "These top predators control marine mammal populations and help maintain whole marine ecosystems including commercially important fish populations."
White sharks have become popular trophy fish around the world, each one being worth thousands of dollars. Also caught incidentally in commercial fisheries, the valuable fins and jaws create an incentive to kill sharks that may otherwise be able to survive if released unharmed.
Sharks are especially susceptible to overfishing because they generally grow slowly, mature late, and have few young. Recognizing this vulnerability, the federal government protected white sharks in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. The white shark is also protected in waters off South Africa and Australia.
"For decades, white sharks have been the target of persecution and indiscriminate killing motivated by fear and misunderstanding," remarked CMC Shark Specialist Sonja Fordham. "At long last, enlightened governments around the world are recognizing the need to respect and protect this remarkable shark."
Contact: Tom Okey (415) 391-6204, Sonja Fordham (202) 429-5609
August 6, 1997
The Center for Marine Conservation is a leading non-profit organization committed to protecting ocean environments and conserving the global abundance and diversity of marine life. Established in 1972, CMC has more than 15,000 California members and 120,000 members nationwide. CMC is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, and Virginia.
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