StarKist and Dongwon deny allegations of shark finning


U.S.-based StarKist Co., and its South Korean based owner Dongwon Industries have dismissed claims the companies violated international law dealing with shark fins, and called the allegations “erroneous and unmerited”.

Dongwon along with StarKist responded yesterday to a Samoa News request for comments regarding an online story by IFS.com, distributed on Wednesday, which states in part that ‘Friend of the Sea’ sent a public letter to Dongwon’s CEO In-Soo Cho this week regarding the company’s shark fishing practices.

The sustainable seafood certification group accused Dongwon and Starkist, two of the globe’s major tuna companies, of collecting up to approximately 1.5 tonnes of dried shark fins on every trip made by their vessels. This is equivalent to 5,000 or more sharks killed for their fins on every fishing trip, reports IFS, the web site of Fish Information & Services, which is widely recognized as the standard for global seafood industry information on the Internet.

Friend of the Sea Director Paolo Bray cited data from the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission’s (IATTC) observer report of transshipment, and noted that several of the killed sharks were included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) red list.

He pointed out that the official IATTC document Dongwon sent Friend of the Sea had been falsified by Dongwon and did not show shark carcasses, said IFS.

“Dongwon does not engage in the practice of shark finning,” StarKist Co., spokesperson Mary Sestric said yesterday via e-mail from the company’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“In response to a specific incident where IATTC conducted an investigation, it was confirmed by IATTC that Dongwon had not violated any international or RFMO regulations, including shark finning,” said Sestric. “Dongwon has complied with all relevant RFMOs and will continue to do so moving forward.”

(RFMO - Regional Fisheries Management Organization, sometime called regional fisheries organization, or RFO, is an international organization dedicated to the sustainable management of fishery resources in a particular region of international waters, or of highly migratory species, according to wikipedia.org)

“These defamatory accusations against Dongwon are erroneous and unmerited.  Dongwon is proudly committed to the environment and we have invested in promoting the importance of protecting our environment in Korea,” Sestric told Samoa News.

An executive order issued by Gov. Togiola Tulafono in December 2003 prohibits “shark finning in territorial waters, the landing of shark fins without corresponding shark carcasses, and the processing of shark fins without the accompanying carcasses in the ports of American Samoa.”

Shark finning is defined as the practice of removing the fin or fins from a shark and discarding the remainder of the shark at sea and the governor’s order coincides with the federal Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 which bans such practices in U.S. controlled waters.


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