Today, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced a bill to ban the U.S. shark fin trade. The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 737) was introduced by Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-M.P.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and currently has 229 additional cosponsors in the House of Representatives. Companion legislation (S. 877), which was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), was reported out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in April. The bills now await votes on the House and Senate floors.
“The U.S. needs a fin ban now,” said Whitney Webber, campaign director at Oceana. “Oceana thanks the committee and the more than 229 bipartisan supporters of this bill in the House of Representatives. Now we’re calling on House leadership to pass this bill. The global shark fin trade is a major contributor to the decline of shark populations around the world, with fins from as many as 73 million sharks ending up in the market every year. This bill would reinforce the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation and bring the world a step closer to ending the devastating trade in shark fins.”
The demand for shark fins incentivizes 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 ineffective shark finning bans or poor fisheries management in place for sharks.
Some shark populations have declined by more than 90% in recent decades due to overfishing; and one-third of identified shark species in the Hong Kong fin trade, the historic center of the global trade, are threatened with extinction.
Shark-related dives in Florida generated more than $221 million in revenue and fueled over 3,700 jobs in 2016, according to an Oceana report. This stands in stark contrast with the total U.S. shark fin export market (under $1 million in the same year).
Supporters of shark fin trade bans include 12 U.S. states, 45 airlines, 21 shipping companies, seven major corporations and over 645 U.S. businesses and organizations. According to a 2016 national poll, 8 in 10 Americans support a national ban on the buying and selling of shark fins. Additionally, more than 150 scientists, 150 chefs, 140 fishermen and 85 surfers and surf businesses have sent letters to Congress urging the passage of a national shark fin ban.