New dogfish rules hinder New England fishermen

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Environmentalist efforts to stop some New England fishermen from catching dogfish, slicing off their fins and throwing them into the water still alive are affecting fishermen who catch them and use all of the animal’s parts.

That’s according to a report in the Boston Globe, which says new rules are hurting fishermen who catch the fish for meat and remove the fins later.

Bans in several states, which are in various stages of proposal or passage, do not distinguish between the methods used for obtaining fins, and local fishermen say that if they can’t sell those, the dogfish isn’t profitable.

“We agree. ... We don’t want sharks being killed only for their fins, but we aren’t doing that,” Greg Walinski told the Globe. “Still, if we can’t sell the fins, we’d be done — there is such a fine margin to make money on dogfish.”

Walinski goes out seven mornings a week on his 35-foot boat to catch his daily 3,000-pound quota of the spiny dogfish.

Dogfish is a low-value type of shark, but a growing niche for the fishing industry, especially on Cape Cod and in southeastern Massachusetts as cod and flounder stocks plummet.

About 200 fishermen in Massachusetts are in the business, catching 11.5 million pounds last year — up from a low of 1.2 million pounds in 2004.

The killing of sharks for only their fins is already banned in U.S. waters, but environmental groups want to stop the importation of shark fins that are destined for Asian restaurants in the United States. Knowing that a federal import ban likely would spark free-trade complaints from other countries, the groups are pushing for state bans on the possession of shark fins to accomplish the same goal.

In the last two years, legislation has passed in five states, including California, where some New England shark fins have long been exported to Asia. The laws largely prohibit the possession, sale, trade and distribution of detached shark fins. Similar bans have been proposed, but not yet passed, in seven East Coast states, including New York.

Click here for the full report.

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