The House Natural Resources Committee has advanced a bill to ban the U.S. shark fin trade and now awaits votes on the House and Senate floors. 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 high demand to catch sharks for finning creates an incentive for hunting and killing sharks. It is a cruel and wasteful practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and throwing the remaining body back into the sea to drown, starve or get eaten alive. With the killing of sharks occuring at such a incredibly high number, completely banning the practice in the U.S. is of vital importance.
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 discovery was a result of a review performed by the nonprofit Oceana which highlights the very negative spotlight being brought upon Miami and Florida.
“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.”
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.
While the U.S. is definitely not the only cause of shark deaths and some countries across the world are killing and finning sharks at a much higher rate, it is extremely importance we completely ban the trade now. At this point, there is nothing more vital than reaching out to your congressional representatives and explaining why this ban needs to be passed. Please contact your representative here and let your voice be heard!