Shark Week is an annual reminder that we should be doing more to celebrate sharks and all they do for our oceans. But this year, the U.S. Senate has a unique opportunity to take the next crucial step in protecting these important animals by passing legislation that would once and for all take the United States out of the global shark fin trade.
In a newly released video, Oceana, celebrity supporters and other influencers urge the Senate to pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S. 877), which the House of Representatives passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in November 2019. The legislation, which has already passed the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in April 2019, was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.).
Oceana’s new video features celebrities such as actresses Jenna Ushkowitz and Bo Derek, actor and Oceana board member Ted Danson, model Ali Stephens, and artist and conservationist Guy Harvey, as well as TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Dan Ashe, and Oceana’s chief policy officer for North America Jacqueline Savitz — all of whom call for a #FinBanNow.
Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade every year, and the demand for fins is one of the greatest threats facing these animals. While shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, shark fins continue to be bought and sold throughout the United States. Oceana says Congress can ban the U.S. shark fin trade and help spur an end to a cruel and wasteful practice that threatens the future of sharks.
“The Senate has the power to make Shark Week more than entertainment this year and help move the world closer to ending the shark fin trade once and for all,” said Oceana campaign director Whitney Webber. “While there is plenty that policymakers can’t agree on these days, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act has drawn broad bipartisan support and presents an easy opportunity for senators to effect meaningful, positive change in an otherwise chaotic and challenging time. We need a fin ban now, before it’s too late. We’re calling on Senate leadership, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to make it a reality.”
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 otherwise inadequate protections in place for sharks.
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. 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 13 U.S. states, 47 airlines, 22 shipping companies, 15 major corporations and over 700 U.S. businesses and organizations. According to a 2016 national poll, eight 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.
For more information about Oceana’s campaign, please click here.