In-Depth: Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-MP) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to ban the buying and selling of shark fins in the U.S.:
“The strong, bipartisan support for this legislation sends a clear message that we have to pay more attention to protecting the Earth’s oceans and the life within those oceans. Banning the sale of shark fins to help end this wasteful and cruel practice is important, but just a small step on the way to giving the oceans the full respect they must have in federal law. Ultimately, all life on Earth depends on the health of the oceans.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) adds:
“I am proud to help introduce the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, which builds upon existing federal law and state initiatives to ban the sale, purchase, or possession of shark fins in the United States. The gruesome shark-finning practices are decimating populations and putting many species on the brink of extinction. This sound bipartisan legislation will promote conservation and responsible fishing practices that are good for the environment and our economy. As the largest economy in the world, how we conduct our commerce has a profound impact on global markets and greatly influences others’ economic behavior. It is long since time we leverage our economic might against shark-finning and work to counter the larger issue of animal poaching and the illicit trafficking of animal parts.”
During the 114th Congress, actor Morgan Freeman joined lawmakers and an advocacy group known as Oceana at a press conference announcing the introduction of this bill's predecessor, and pushed for the legislation’s passage:
“Sharks are being killed for their fins, much like rhinos and elephants have been decimated due to the demand for their horns and tusks. While shark finning is banned in U.S. waters, we continue to buy, sell and trade shark fins throughout the country. By allowing the trade of shark fins within our borders, the U.S. continues to contribute to this global problem.”
Oceana's Campaign Director, Whitney Webber, adds:
“Banning the U.S. shark fin trade has overwhelming support from the conservation, business and coastal recreation industries, and is a critical step for shark conservation. The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would improve enforcement of state fin bans and reinforce the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation. This bipartisan legislation is a sensible, non-partisan way for the U.S. to lead in shark conservation. A national fin ban is something that both sides of the aisle can agree is good for our oceans, and good for the tourism jobs and businesses that depend on healthy shark populations... [This bill] will set a new standard for shark conservation.”
A representative of the Sustainable Shark Alliance, a coalition of shark fishermen and seafood dealers advocating for sustainable U.S. shark fisheries, expressed opposition to this bill in that it'd effectively punish American shark fishermen who abide by the law while doing nothing about shark finning in other countries:
"The bill will, as a practical matter, end domestic commercial shark fishing because, on average, fins account for half the value of the landed catch. Absent that income, fishermen would lose money catching and landing these fish. The ban also runs counter to the main principle behind this nation's fisheries law: to maximize the economic return from sustainable use of our maritime resources. In short, the legislation harms American fishing families and coastal communities merely to send a message about unsustainable and cruel fishing practices abroad."
This bill has 128 bipartisan cosponsors, including 101 Democrats and 27 Republicans, in the current session of Congress. Last Congress, this bill passed through both the Senate and House committees with the support of 262 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, including 177 Democrats and 85 Republicans. It has the support of Oceana, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, Shark Stewards, and the Animal Welfare Institute.
Of Note: Shark finning is a practice wherein fishermen remove sharks' fins, and then discard the sharks overboard to die. According to Oceana, as many 73 million sharks have their fins removed in a given year, and several species that are frequent targets are considered to be vulnerable or endangered populations. Much of the demand for shark fins is driven by the consumption of shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures.
Although shark finning is prohibited in U.S. waters, the U.S. still has a strong market for shark fins, and consumers in most states can buy them. The U.S. is one of the world's top importers of shark fins, as well as a transit point for international shark fin shipments. Thus, the U.S. contributes to shark finning and the dwindling of shark populations.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: Flickr user nicwn)