Shark fins burned as Honduran president watches

Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa joined some of the country’s top law enforcement officials Thursday to watch the burning of hundreds of illegal shark fins, a move aimed at underscoring the country’s commitment to protecting sharks.

The incendiary display, featuring fins from nurse sharks that were seized by the Honduran navy in April, took place in the nation’s capital, Tegucigalpa.

“Unfortunately there are few limits on the number of sharks that can be killed beyond the borders of our sanctuary, but we are committed to putting a stop to this activity in Honduras,” Lobo said in a statement. “These animals play an important role in maintaining healthy coastal areas, our fisheries are dependent upon them, and they provide revenue by bringing tourists and divers to Honduras to see sharks. They are worth far more alive than dead.

The confiscated fins would have been worth as much as $300 per pound on the open market, where they are sold for shark’s fin soup. As many as a third of all shark populations face some threat of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Last June, Lobo declared his country’s entire 92,665-mile exclusive economic zone off limits to shark fishing, which includes both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Only a handful of other countries, including Palau and the Maldives, have established similar shark sanctuaries. In the U.S., several states have banned the sale, trade and possession of shark fins.

“We salute the government of Honduras and its law enforcement officers for swiftly implementing its shark sanctuary,” said Maximiliano Bello, who advises the Pew Environment Group on shark conservation and attended the burning. “More comprehensive measures and enforcement actions such as these are still needed to protect the ocean’s top predators from extinction.”

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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