"Save the sharks" is the message in the nation’s capital this week, as efforts to protect sharks mounted on Capitol Hill and at the National Aquarium's Washington venue.
Yesterday, as National Aquarium staff and syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey prepared to personally deliver more than 6,000 shark conservation letters collected from visitors to NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Eric Schwaab, the Senate passed a very important shark conservation bill that would put new restrictions on shark finning in U.S. waters.
And today, just after the sacks of personally signed letters urging shark protection were delivered by the group and Aquarium mascot Sherman the Shark, the House passed the very same bill. The legislation, deemed the Shark Conservation Act and sponsored by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), will close loopholes in the current ban on shark finning in the U.S.
Jim Toomey is the creator of Sherman the Shark, a popular cartoon character that appears daily in more than 150 newspapers in the U.S. and around the world to help promote greater awareness and protection of these ancient, mysterious and often misunderstood ocean dwellers. Toomey’s fun-loving character is also the inspiration and theme of Sherman’s Lagoon, the National Aquarium’s newest exhibit in Washington, which features interactive workstations, educational shark videos and shark myths and conservation messages from Sherman the Shark throughout.
Thousands of Sherman’s Lagoon visitors have signed and submitted the letters that were delivered today. The letters are personal requests asking the agency to help promote shark conservation, specifically on the topic of overfishing, which remains the number-one threat facing sharks today. Signers of the letters also added their own personal artwork renderings of their favorite sharks, as seen in this letter from Cara. Along with Jim Toomey, our Executive Director Bob Ramin and several students delivered more than 6,000 letters from kids from around the country to NOAA Fisheries headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. NOAA Fisheries Administrator Eric Schwaab personally accepted the delivery and sat down with Toomey to discuss some of the leading efforts by NOAA to conserve sharks. It's a good day for sharks. Bob Ramin said it best: "They may not know it, but sharks have received a wonderful holiday gift this season--the gift of conservation and awareness."