The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a bill that would prohibit the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States.
Introduced in January by Representatives Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-MP) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), the bill passed by a vote of 310-107 after amassing 288 cosponsors. A companion measure in the Senate, introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), passed out of committee earlier this year.
Following the vote, Oceana Campaign Director Whitney Webber released the following statement:
“Sharks have survived for millions of years – since before the dinosaurs – but their future is now in question. The demand for shark fins is decimating shark populations and the U.S. must now do its part to help protect them. Oceana applauds the House for passing this important legislation. Now it’s time for the Senate to do the same. This legislation is a bright spot of bipartisanship in Congress. Passing this bill into law will take the U.S. out of the fin trade and reduce the demand for fins. It’s time for the U.S. to once again be a leader in shark conservation. The U.S. needs a fin ban now.”
Animal Welfare Institute President Cathy Liss applauded the bill’s passage:
“Sharks have existed for hundreds of millions of years on this planet, and yet these remarkable apex predators now face one of the biggest threats to their survival because of the demand for their fins. More than a quarter of shark species and their relatives are at risk of extinction.
“Passing legislation to clamp down on the global shark fin trade is essential if we are going to protect sharks and maintain functioning marine ecosystems. We are grateful to Representatives Sablan and McCaul for their steadfast leadership and urge the Senate to quickly pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act so that it can be signed into law.”
According to an online database maintained by AWI, nearly 200 restaurants across the USA continue to offer shark fin products.
The U.S. Congress has twice acted to curb the growing demand for shark fins. In 2000, lawmakers passed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act, which banned the possession of shark fins in U.S. waters absent the rest of the shark’s body. And in 2010, Congress passed the Shark Conservation Act, requiring fishermen in U.S. waters to bring sharks ashore whole, with their fins attached. However, loopholes and lackluster enforcement have allowed shark finning to persist, with the United States playing a significant role in exporting fins around the world, according to AWI.
Twelve U.S. states and three territories have already enacted bans on selling shark fins in response to the dire threats facing sharks worldwide. In June, Canada, the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia, banned shark fin imports and exports.