With Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature today, New York joins Maryland and Delaware as the third state on the East Coast to ban the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins throughout the state, and the eighth state in the nation to adopt the ban. Every state that passes similar laws moves our country closer to shutting down the U.S. market for shark fin soup. This newly minted victory is already threatened, however, by proposals by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to block these important measures.
Shark finning is a brutal practice: Fishermen haul live sharks onto boats where their fins are sliced off, and the sharks are then thrown back into the water, alive, to drown or bleed to death. While shark finning is banned in the U.S., the demand for shark fins is allowing this brutal practice to continue outside our waters. Current reports estimate that over one hundred million sharks are killed every year, most only for their fins, which are often used in shark fin soup. Once an Asian delicacy reserved for the wealthy, now, with a growing middle class, shark fin soup has become common fare at weddings, banquets and business meetings. A bowl can cost up to $320, making the fins easily the most lucrative part of the shark. Shark fin has little to no taste, and merely contributes texture to shark fin soup.
Since shark meat is inferior to other fish and the bodies are bulky and take up precious cargo space, sharks are finned around the world. Unsustainable fishing methods like shark finning have caused the decline of some shark species by as much as 99 percent in recent decades.
Although an Asian delicacy, shark fin soup and its consumers are not limited to the Asian continent; many restaurants around the United States serve it, particularly restaurants in the state of New York. The Humane Society reported two years ago that shark fin soup could be found on the menus of hundreds of restaurants across the country, and that at least 55 restaurants in New York City continued to offer it. With his signature, Governor Cuomo closes a major market for shark fins, both as consumers and as a trading hub: New York City has been one of the largest markets for fins outside of Asia, and is the largest port-of-entry on the East Coast. Together with Illinois, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Delaware, and Maryland, New York has effectively closed the majority of the U.S. market for shark fin soup.
Beth Lowell, campaign director for Oceana said: “New York said ‘no’ to shark fins today. The widespread support for this ban shows that sharks are worth more in the oceans than in a bowl of soup. By reducing the demand for their fins in New York, we can help to protect sharks worldwide.” The practice of shark finning is banned in all U.S. waters, but the trade of fins continues, so statewide bans on shark fins are required if we want to put an end to the American market for shark fins. At the rate of one hundred million sharks killed every year, humans may wipe shark populations out entirely in 10-20 years if we don’t change something. The time for states to act is now to reject shark finning across the country.
Incredibly, this new victory is already threatened by recently proposed NMFS regulations implementing the Shark Conservation Act. The regulations, which require that all sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached, also contains language that could cause state shark fin trade bans to be undermined, meaning more shark fins could be imported from countries that allow the horrific practice. No sooner do we celebrate this victory than we must fight to keep it from being undermined. We can do something to stop this, however: Please sign our petition to tell NMFS that when we adopt statewide shark fin bans, we mean to defend and keep them!
The fact that New York has become the eighth state in the nation to ban shark fins is promising, but it also means that 42 states in this country have yet to close the market on shark fins. And so, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming – what are you waiting for? Ban shark fin sales, trade, distribution and possession, and let’s tell the world that the people of the United States will not fund or support shark finning throughout the world.