February 4th, 2015, marked the passing of CB18-134 by the National Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), otherwise known as the “Shark Bill”. This bill was the result of collaborative efforts between key National Government departments, led by FSM President Manny Mori, and key committee members, leadership, and staff of the FSM National Congress. Significant contributors to the bill’s successful passage include the Micronesian Conservation Trust, numerous other conservation and grass roots advocates, and proponents from FSM State and Municipal Governments.
President Mori signed the landmark legislation into Law on February 26, 2015.
The provisions in the new law are similar to those in the European Union and United States legal frameworks, and prohibit the practice of “shark finning” of all species of sharks on board fishing vessels.
During the early stages of this effort, President Mori was actively involved in ensuring that the Shark Bill not only achieved the conservation and protection of the species, but also allowed otherwise wasted shark by-catch to be utilized by local farmers as livestock feed. Therefore, unlike other bills, the Shark Bill was tailored to provide that if a shark is caught, vessels must either release the live shark back into the ocean, or retain and land the dead shark at an FSM port, fins attached.
Importantly, the new law also allows all types of by-catch, in addition to sharks, to be utilized in the future. This provision alone has the potential to help boost the economy, while at the same time create a new industry for the local production of livestock feed, which should cut down on the import of livestock feed and create job opportunities.
In order to facilitate the introduction of the obligation to retain and land dead sharks, the law provides a six-month exemption for fishing vessels, valid from the date the bill became a law, after which the obligation is mandatory.
The new law is the result of a tailored approach to shark conservation and species management in the FSM, designed to provide protection of shark species, while simultaneously utilizing wasted resources to help the local communities.