This Op-Ed authored by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions first appeared on Congressman Ed Royce's website on March 3, 2018
Every year, fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up at markets around the world.
In many cultures shark fin is considered a delicacy. Often used in soup, it can sell for as much as $500 per pound.
This has led to overfishing and grisly shark-finning practices, in which finless sharks – unable to move or breathe – are dumped back in the ocean to die. Entire populations have been decimated. Many species are on the brink of extinction.
So, on this World Wildlife Day, it’s time for America to double down on efforts to save sharks and other iconic animals for future generations.
That’s why we – the Chairman of four committees in the U.S. House of Representatives – have introduced legislation to shut down the grisly shark fin trade. Our bill, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 1456), will build on existing federal law and state initiatives to help dismantle the market that incentivizes shark finning. Notably, this bipartisan bill, which currently has 233 cosponsors, will ban the sale, purchase and possession of shark fins across the country.
And it will encourage other countries to follow suit. For proof, we need only to look at the progress that’s been made since the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act was first introduced. China is one of the largest markets for shark fins, but after introduction of our bill, both Air China and China Southern Airlines banned shark fin cargo.
In short, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act is a straightforward, common-sense step that will promote conservation and responsible fishing practices that are good for both the environment and our economy. As predators, sharks are integral to maintaining healthy populations of other fish that many people, including the fishing industry, rely on. Furthermore, a 2016 study found that in Florida, shark encounters raked in $221 million for the local economy. Louisiana and other states stand to benefit greatly from healthier shark populations as well.
Sadly, sharks are not the only animals that are hunted for their body parts. Elephants are poached for their ivory. Rhinos are poached for their horns. Tigers are poached for their skin. If current trends were to continue, extinction of these animals is almost certain.
We’ve already seen elephant populations in certain parts of Africa drastically decrease by 75 percent in the last decade. And the world’s wild tiger population has shrunk 96 percent over the past century to less than 4,000. In fact, there are more captive tigers in the state of Texas alone than wild tigers around the world.
In many cases, stopping these poachers and traffickers is also a matter of our national security. Just last month, authorities in Gabon dismantled the nation’s largest ivory trafficking ring. Not surprising, the arrested member’s cell phones and laptops included ties to Boko Haram – one of the world’s deadliest terrorist organizations. Rather than seeing some of the world’s most majestic animals as creatures to be cherished and conserved, rebels, international criminal networks, and even terrorists see them as sources of revenue. They have turned trafficking of animal parts into a black market worth an estimated $10 billion annually.
We’re making progress in fighting this scourge, thanks in part to the END Wildlife Trafficking Act that was enacted in 2016 to help our partner countries stop poachers and traffickers cold in their tracks. But of course, much more needs to be done.
World Wildlife Day is an important reminder of the responsibility each of us has in this fight. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the devastating effect that shark finning, and other gruesome practices, are having on wildlife.
As House Committee Chairmen, we will continue to work with all 233 bipartisan cosponsors to advance the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act to help save our sharks and our seas.