WASHINGTON –Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted to advance the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S.877), which would largely ban the buying and selling of shark fins in the United States. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced the bipartisan legislation earlier this month, joined by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Martha McSally (R-AZ). A companion bill (H.R. 737) was introduced in House of Representatives in January by Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-M.P.) and Michael McCaul (R-TX).
Although shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, fins can still be bought and sold throughout much of the United States. These fins often come from unsustainable foreign fisheries in countries that have ineffective shark finning bans, or even no restrictions at all. The global shark fin trade is one of the largest contributors to the decline of shark populations around the world.
Oceana applauded today’s vote and released the following statement from campaign director Whitney Webber:
“The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act has strong support from both sides of the aisle, as well as the conservation, business and coastal recreation communities.
The demand for shark fins incentivizes the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning that is decimating shark populations worldwide. Similar to how the demand for elephant tusks has led to horrific poaching and has severely threatened many elephant populations, the shark fin trade is jeopardizing the continued survival of many shark species – and U.S. dollars support this global trade.
Oceana commends the Senate Commerce Committee for taking a stand against shark fins and passing this critically important conservation bill. Twelve states have already banned the buying and selling of shark fins, and now it is time for national action. This legislation would improve enforcement, solidify United States leadership in shark conservation, and bring the world closer to ending the devastating trade in shark fins.
The practice of shark finning is illegal in the U.S., but it is not enough – we need to reduce the demand for fins. We need a fin ban now. Oceana calls on Congress to pass this important legislation.”
The global shark fin trade has led to the brutal practice of shark finning, where the fins are removed from the shark’s body and the shark is thrown back into the ocean, only to drown, starve or be eaten alive by other fish. Some shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent 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.
In March 2017, Oceana released a report finding that shark-related dives in Florida generated more than $221 million in revenue and fueled over 3,700 jobs in 2016. 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, 40 airlines, 20 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, and 85 surfers and surf businesses have sent letters to Congress urging the passage of a national shark fin ban.