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Monday, February 10, 2014

Nebraska Students Take on Shark Finning Legislation

If you live in the Midwest you’ve probably consumed more oxtail soup than shark fin soup. Kudos to you--if you’ve only ate oxtail soup. Why you ask? Because sharks are on the endangered species list and oxes are not. One would think they would not be selling shark fins in Nebraska; however, a group of local students have discovered differently and have decided to do something about it. If they get their way, Nebraska may be the ninth state to outlaw buying, selling or having shark fin products.

Believe or not these students are taking their message all the way to Nebraska’s state capitol in Lincoln. Enter Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Zoo Academy, No Fins No Future, student-run initiative.

“I am a teacher at the Zoo Academy and they’ve put together under my supervision a Facebook page called No Fins No Future,” said Pat Purkhiser, a Zoo Academy teacher and a master scuba diver instructor at DiVentures in Omaha. “We’re trying to educate the public with snippets about shark finning, shark problems around the world, and it seems to be going quit well."

Shark fins obviously are a product people want here in Nebraska even though the state is land-locked. This group of 80 students is dedicated to stop the sale, trade, and possession of all shark fins and shark related products in Nebraska and beyond.

“The Zoo Academy is comprised of both the Papillion-La Vista and OPS school districts,” said Brett Homme, a senior at Papillion-La Vista South High School.

The Zoo Academy is completely student-run from the creation of the No Fins No Future logo (shown above), blog posts, as well as Facebook and Twitter updates.

“We want to be the next state even though we’re land-locked to pass a bill banning all shark fin products; fin sales, possession, anything like that.” said Purkhiser. “Obviously places like the zoo or even aquariums, as long as their attached--we can obviously live with. “

Scuba divers have a very special place in our hearts for all underwater creatures, and sharks are no different. I guess it surprised this blogger a bit when interviewing Zoo Academy students recently to find out they’ve never swam with a shark or even gone scuba diving.

“The students have gone out, gone to markets and found cans of shark fin soup. They’ve found sharks lying on ice, dead. It’s pretty devastating,” Purkhiser said.

Purkhiser added: “We’ve looked at the cans and there’s just a couple ounces of actual shark fin in there. But shark fin if you analyze it, it’s very un-nutrious and very tasteless. Look at the can it will have crab meat, chicken broth, chicken parts, clams--things like that. So, obviously they’re putting some taste into with something else; shark fin has no taste.”

After interviewing for this post it was announced January 8th on @Nofinning's Twitter:

“All the students at the Zoo Academy are behind it,” Homme said.

It is gruesome what poachers do to these sharks. The poachers capture the shark--shear off their fins--and throw them back in the water alive. What is more devastating is the long-term affect this act has on our oceans. Though Nebraska is a land-locked state, the effects of the ocean ecosystem becoming unbalanced will some day be felt everywhere--not just in coastal states. The students believe every little bit the Zoo Academy can do to prevent that from happening will help.

“Main thing, people don’t know about it [shark finning]. I think because it’s Nebraska people just don’t think about it. I didn’t know about it until I started Zoo Academy," Homme said. "After talking to Pat I now realize what an important issue it is and what an impact it is going to have. We need to do whatever we can to stop this.”

Like the Zoo Academy students, you too can take action. If you live in Nebraska you can do something by contacting your state senator about Legislative Bill 921. Contact information for Nebraska state senators can be found at http://nebraskalegislature.gov/senators/senator_list.php. Nebraska residents can also fill out an online petition from www,bornfree.org highlighted above. If you don’t live in Nebraska--you can still take action and help these students take a stand against shark finning. Show your support and “Like” No Fins No Future official Facebook Page, follow the group on Twitter @Nofinning or visit the group's blog at http://www.nofinsnofuture.blogspot.com. Keep diving!

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2014 population-we, LLC 
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