WASHINGTON – A bill (H.R. 2811) that would ban the buying and selling of shark fins in the United States was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today by Reps. Gregorio Kilili Sablan (I-MP) and Michael McCaul (R-TX). Similar legislation was introduced in the last Congress, passing the House with widespread bipartisan support (310-107) as well clearing the Senate Commerce Committee and garnering the support of 47 Senate cosponsors.
“We’re confident this Congress can get the bill passed,” said Whitney Webber, campaign director at Oceana. “It’s rare to find an issue that brings together the political, business and conservation communities. We applaud Reps. Sablan and McCaul for their continued leadership to take the United States out of the shark fin trade once and for all. We know the demand for fins is decimating shark populations around the world and this is a clear and easy way to help reduce it. It’s time for the U.S. to once again be a leader in shark conservation. We must join our allies in Canada, who have closed their borders to the destructive shark fin trade and do the same in the United States. We look forward to finding a path forward on this important issue that a majority of Americans support. The U.S. needs a fin ban now.”
A study published in Nature earlier this year found that global oceanic shark and ray populations have declined by more than 70% over the last 50 years, with overfishing as the primary cause. Oceana says the global shark fin trade is a major driver of overfishing and the decline of shark populations around the world, with fins from as many as 73 million sharks ending up in the market every year. The study called for "proactive measures to prevent total collapse, this should be a wake-up call for policymakers.”
According to a poll released by Oceana late last year, nearly 9 in 10 registered American voters oppose the practice of shark finning and almost 80% support legislation to ban the sale and trade of shark fins throughout the United States.
As of today, 13 states, more than 45 airlines, 15 major corporations, including Amazon, Hilton and Disney and 22 shipping companies, have refused to transport or trade shark fins. Nearly 700 businesses – including more than 100 dive shops and SCUBA businesses, several aquariums, and Sea World Parks and Entertainment – support a national fin ban. Other support includes more than 150 scientists, 150 chefs, 140 fishermen, and 85 surfers and surf businesses.
And if that is not enough, sharks are also good for the economy. According to an Oceana report, the value of shark-related dives in Florida in 2016 was more than 200 times the value of shark fin exports for the entire country in the same year. Shark encounters supported more than 3,700 jobs in Florida, with a total economic impact to the state of more than $377 million.
The demand for shark fins incentivizes overfishing and shark finning, the cruel and wasteful practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and throwing its body back overboard where it drowns, starves to death or is eaten alive by other fish. Just as rhino and elephant populations have declined due to the demand for their horns and tusks, the shark fin trade is jeopardizing the continued survival of many shark populations.
Although shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, fins can still be bought and sold throughout much of the United States. These fins are often imported from countries that have inadequate protections in place for sharks.