Due to Miami’s geography, they have long been a global hub for the import-export industry and a new statistic just found out they are the U.S. leader in one of the most destructive imports in the world: shark fins.
Since 2015, Miami has led the nation in the number of shark fins imported from Hong Kong, likely caused by an increasing number of import bans in other states. The finding was a result of a review performed by the nonprofit Ocean which highlights the very negative spotlight being brought upon Miami and Florida.
The number of fins arriving at the Port of Miami from Hong Kong was lowering in numbers prior to 2015 but after California and New York banned imports in 2011 and 2013 respectively, the total shark fin imports began to rise.
Currently, there are twelve states in the USA that bans shark fin imports and unfortunately, the Sunshine State is not one of those.
Oceana is currently pushing for a federal ban on shark fins, arguing that the United States, which imports a small fraction of the world’s total fins, should be leading by example in the global crisis.
The practice of shark finning is done by catching a shark, slicing off its fins and often the rest of the shark is thrown back into the ocean to drown or die from injuries. Some sharks must swim constantly in order to keep oxygen-rich water flowing over their gills, while others are able to pass water through their respiratory system by a pumping motion of their pharynx.
The importance of sharks cannot be overstated due to them being a keystone species. Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. In that role, they keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem. Eco-systems in the past have collapsed due to the loss of sharks and in recent studies, areas that have had protections for sharks have not only seen shark species rebound, but almost every other species of marine life as well due to the balance sharks bring.
Shark finning itself is actually illegal in the United States but fins can still be legally harvested from sharks that are imported from other countries. One of the biggest problems with these laws is that it is nearly impossible to tell illegal fins from legal fins. According to a study, out of 4,800 fins purchased in a Hong Kong market between 2014 and 22015, nearly a third came from protected sharks facing extinction.
There are two bills currently making its way through congress that fall on either side of shark finning support. One bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Cal. would ban shark fins altogether. While the second bill, drafted by Florida Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Daniel Webster, would let U.S. shark fisherman continue harvesting fins, but allow imports only from countries that share the U.S.’s tighter rules.
There is currently a petition on Change.org to get Florida to ban imports of shark fins but it may be tough. In the past, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has said in a statement that he would not support the ban, “because as a Floridian, he understands how intimately our economy and natural resources are interconnected.” It’s clear that the only way to ensure that sharks see the proper protections is by voting those who will not act out of office.