Every year, fishermen globally pull tens of millions of sharks on deck and crudely slice off their fins. The fishermen then throw the sharks overboard, now finless, and they sink to the ocean floor where they drown or bleed to death. Shark finning is as brutal as it is wasteful – which prompted the U.S. government to enact the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000, making the practice illegal. Or, at least, that was the intention.
Under the Act, the U.S. Coast Guard confiscated more than 32 tons of shark fins from the King Diamond II in 2002. The fins are used for the Asian “delicacy” shark fin soup, which can sell for up to $100 a bowl. There’s no way to know just how many sharks were killed for this particular haul, but we do know that a shark’s fin comprises just 1 to 5 percent of the animal’s body weight, which means that more than six million pounds of shark carcasses were scattered on the ocean’s floor.
The Hong Kong company that owned the King Diamond II chose to fight this seizure in court, claiming that the law applied to “fishing” vessels and not a “transport” vessel like the King Diamond II, which had gathered its fins from other ships. The most incredulous part of this story is not the amount of shark fins onboard the vessel – the equivalent weight of eleven Cadillac Escalades – but that this company WON their court case by exploiting this loophole just a few weeks ago.
Congress was as outraged as we were at Oceana to learn about this decision. Last week, Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) introduced the Shark Conservation Act of 2008, which would close the loophole and help put into force what Congress thought they did six years ago – outlaw this horrific practice. This new law applies to all vessels, not just fishing ships. It goes on to require that all sharks to be landed with their fins, and allows the U.S. to take actions against other countries that continue to shark fin such as banning imports of shark fins from those countries. This bill is a vital step in ensuring protection for global shark populations.
The King Diamond II got away with violating our shark protections. Let’s not let it happen again. Watch our video and tell your representative to support a true shark finning ban today.