You Know What the Bay Could Really Use? More Sharks!

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It’s easy to want to preserve populations of cute endangered species, but what about ugly animals? What about ugly animals that scare you?

Populations of large sharks off the East Coast have been reduced by 90 percent from their stable, historic numbers. And this is a bad thing. For one, the predator’s precipitous decline fueled a steep increase in the number of cownose rays in the Chesapeake that wreaked havoc on our oysters.

Now, if it were up to me, we’d start hunting and eating cownose rays to keep the populations level, but some lawmakers in Annapolis think they know better. They’ve proposed a bill targeting the shark fin trade specifically, joining four other states in banning the trade of the delicacy. Each year, somewhere between 26 million and 73 million sharks are killed for their fins worldwide. But, as you might expect, Maryland accounts for an awfully small percentage of the fin market.

Opponents of the shark-protection bill include restaurateurs, grocers, fishermen, and — I’m assuming — people who watched Jaws too young and still get nightmares. Even our secretary of natural resources, John R. Griffin, has come out against the bill, on the grounds that it will unnecessarily inhibit our local commercial fishermen, since they would be catching sharks whole, but be restricted from selling the fins.

On the other side, proponents of the measure are hopeful that reducing demand for the product, will be an effective way of reducing shark mortality worldwide.

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