NANFA-- FWD: Protect the Atlantic spiny dogfish!

Christopher Scharpf (
Sun, 12 Mar 2000 00:03:01 -0400

Protect the Atlantic spiny dogfish shark!

At the eleventh hour, a handful of Members of Congress from
Massachusetts have persuaded the Secretary of Commerce to
reconsider a long overdue plan to protect the overfished
Atlantic spiny dogfish shark. We need you to tell them that
this delay is unacceptable because it threatens the recovery
of our nation's public marine resources.

Spiny dogfish, or "cape shark," is a type of small shark
that grows slowly and takes about twelve years to mature.
Female dogfish are pregnant for almost two years--longer
than any other animal--before giving birth to an average of
only six offspring. These characteristics make dogfish
extremely susceptible to overfishing. Unregulated fishing
off the U.S. northeast coast in the 1990s severely depleted
the population, in particular, the numbers of mature
females, which fishermen target because they are larger than
males. After much stalling, a dogfish shark management plan
was finally approved. But then the Secretary of Commerce,
under intense pressure from U.S. Senators and
Representatives from Massachusetts, delayed its
implementation and even may seriously weaken the plan if he
does not hear from you--the concerned public--now.

In accordance with federal law, fishery managers,
scientists, and fishermen from Maine to North Carolina spent
two years developing a plan to conserve the dogfish. To ease
any economic hardship, managers gave fishermen a year to
transition out before the fishery's scheduled shutdown in
May 2000. Even so, state fishery managers from Massachusetts
(the top dogfishing state) insist, though with scant
evidence, that the science is wrong. In addition, they have
successfully persuaded key members of the Massachusetts
Congressional delegation, including Senators Ted Kennedy and
John Kerry and Representatives William Delahunt, Barney
Frank, and James McGovern, to convince the secretary of
commerce that the dogfish plan is flawed and should be
stopped. Although the concern of these U.S. Senators and
Representatives for their constituents' economic welfare is
commendable, the best available scientific advice
contradicts their arguments. Moreover, any further delay of
these sorely needed dogfish conservation measures poses a
much more severe and longer-term economic threat to all
commercial fishermen--not just fishermen in Massachusetts.

It is critical that you let Commerce Secretary William
Daley, Senators Kennedy and Kerry, and Representatives
Delahunt, Frank, and McGovern know that further delay in
protecting the dogfish is irresponsible and that the
short-term economic interests of one state should not
jeopardize the recovery of the entire nation's public marine
resources. Please send the following sample letter right
away--before the Secretary makes his decision on March
15--to show your support for the immediate implementation of
the already approved dogfish plan.

Thank you for helping save our nation's marine life!


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Your letter will be addressed and sent to:
Senator Edward Kennedy
Senator John Kerry
Representative Barney Frank
Representative James McGovern
Representative William Delahunt
Secretary William M. Daley


I am writing to express my disappointment and great concern
about your actions to delay enactment of a management plan
for overfished spiny dogfish sharks of the northwest

The extremely slow growth rate of spiny dogfish, as well as
the fact that they take twelve years to mature, means that
dogfish are particularly susceptible to overfishing and slow
to recover from depletion. Although it is obvious that the
biology of this species requires that it be carefully
managed, years of unregulated fishing have put the spiny
dogfish population in peril.

It is my understanding that the conservation measures in the
management plan are being delayed because of concerns voiced
by several members of the Massachusetts Congressional
delegation about the short-term economic impacts on some
Massachusetts fishermen. I find this delay distressing
because spiny dogfish sharks are a public marine resource
for all citizens, not just a few commercial fishermen in one
state. Delaying the recovery of this resource will cause
severe long-term economic injury to many more fishermen all
along the Atlantic coast and, furthermore, will damage the
marine environment gravely.

I urge you to take all necessary steps now to end the
shortsighted overfishing of this vulnerable fish species and
to implement the approved spiny dogfish plan immediately.
Thank you for considering my views on this critical matter.

-------END OF LETTER-------------------------

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