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Class Notes May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Dominique Cano-Stocco, Warren '94

Political Shark. Although she majored in political science, Dominique Cano-Stocco never forgot her love of the ocean.

"I'm a shark fanatic," she says, adding that her fascination is coupled with a "healthy fear" of them, too.

When she learned about shark finning—the inhumane practice of removing a shark's fins and throwing its live body back in the ocean—the 15-year veteran government-relations expert utilized her political day-job skills to become an unofficial strategist for California shark advocates. In her spare time, she helped build their case for the state legislature to make it illegal to import or buy shark fins.

In 2010, Cano-Stocco enrolled in the joint master's program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and needed to complete a research project. Naturally, sharks came to mind.

The fins, which are mostly cartilage, are sold and used in shark fin soup; once processed they are unrecognizable, resembling glass noodles. "It was like solving a murder mystery, like doing legislative forensics," says Cano-Stocco. Her DNA analysis made it possible to help determine what species of shark were being sold in California and was one of the major pieces of evidence that played a part in the recent passing of the state ban.

"We have to move the science out of the research journals, into the legislature and the public domain," says Cano-Stocco. "We need more people to be the bridges between scientists and policy."