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Shark conservation bill awaits Obama's signature

The Senate and the House have both approved a new shark conservation bill that will extend protection to sharks off United States coastlines. The initiative now requires Obama's signature to go into effect.

According to the Washington Post, the Shark Conservation Act attempts to compensate for ineffectual laws passed nearly a decade ago to prohibit fishermen from cutting off a shark's valuable fin and dumping the rest of its body. The practice, called finning, would become more difficult to get away with under the new measure, which would mandate that fishermen catch sharks with their fins attached and that any vessel transporting fins would need to have shark bodies attached to them.

The bill includes a controversial exemption to win Republican support that would allow fishermen in North Carolina to carry the fins of smooth dogfish separately, provided they don't exceed 12 percent of the weight of the catch. Many environmentalists are pleased with the bill, which should give endangered shark species the chance to recover.

Shark finning is illegal on the Atlantic Coast and off the Gulf of Mexico but remains a practice on the Pacific Coast, the news source reports. Several shark populations have decreased by as much as 95 percent since the 1970s, according to StopSharkFinning.net.
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