Thursday, March 20, 2008

Idiots at Reuters--Shark De-Finning Case (Updated)

Well it looks like I broke the story about the god-awful 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the industrial shark de-finning case before the mainstream media did.

So today Reuters reported the decision correctly, but some idiot got the headline totally ass-backwards. The headline reads: In U.S. court fight, the shark fins win

No, the shark fins did not "win" anything. The sharks lost. The US government lost. The American people lost. The industrial de-finners who have figured out a way to skirt our species protection laws won--at least for now.

The subtext of humor in the "tone" of the headline pisses me off too. Wholesale slaughter of species isn't funny.

Here is the decision, straight from the Court's website:

The Government seized the fins pursuant to the Shark Finning Prohibition Act (“SFPA”), which makes it unlawful for any person aboard a U.S. fishing vessel to possess shark fins obtained through prohibited “shark finning.” 16 U.S.C. § 1857(1)(P)(ii). TLH does not contest that, on its behalf, the KD II purchased the fins at sea from foreign vessels that engaged in shark finning. Instead, it argues that the KD II is not a fishing vessel under 16 U.S.C. § 1802(18)(B), and for that reason the forfeiture of the shark fins it possessed would violate due process. We agree that neither the statute nor the regulations provided fair notice to TLH that it would be considered a fishing vessel under § 1802(18)(B). We therefore reverse the judgment of forfeiture and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

So I saw the stupid headline and then spent the next 10 minutes navigating Reuters website trying to find a contact link to an editor for correction. Jeez they make it difficult. I guess they don't really want feedback from us "ignorant masses."


Update: Thee Reuter's headline about the shark fins "winning" is correct, but only in a highly technical, legalese sense. In forfeiture cases involving seized goods, the seized goods are named in the case title. So it's not unusual to see case titles like "US v. 700 Siberian Tiger Pelts" or US vs. 20,000 lbs. of African Elephant Ivory Tusks." That's just how it's done.

But when the seized goods "win" --as is the case with the seized shark fins--what it really means is that the people who broke the law won.

What pisses me off about Reuters is the bemused tone of the headline, and the lack of context in the piece about what negative impacts this decision will have on all efforts to protect species.

Like I said, wholesale slaughter of species just ain't funny.

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