Blog Tags: Shark Fin Soup
New York state is the largest importer of shark fins on the East Coast, but if a new bill passes, this fact could be history.
This trade is driven by a demand for shark fin soup, which can sell for hundreds of dollars. Sadly, shark numbers are dropping worldwide due to relentless fishing for fins, and in many places sharks have their fins cut off while still alive (a cruel practice called “finning”). Finning is illegal in the United States, but the demand for fins in New York and elsewhere in the US add to the pressure. Imported fins can come from countries with less regulations, and many shark populations in the US are dropping dangerously low, with some hammerhead populations falling as much as 98%.
But New York is considering a bill that would ban the trade of shark fins within the state, and we’re so excited to announce that it’s moving forward! After a huge push by Oceana and other shark supporters, which included thousands of your signatures and personal pleas from Leonardo DiCaprio and January Jones, both the Senate and Assembly committees passed the bill. Now it’s up for a vote in the Assembly and Senate. But the New York legislation session ends this week, which means they have to act soon.
We’re still gathering signatures to send to New York legislatures. Please sign today and pass the petition along to your friends. The world’s sharks need you.
When you think of Illinois, “shark fins” may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But this inland state does have a shark fin trade, and it may soon be history.
After Oceana collected over a thousand signatures from concerned Illinois citizens this week, the Illinois Senate voted to pass a shark fin ban in the state. The bill is now heading to Governer Pat Quinn’s desk, awaiting his signature. If it passes into law, Illinois will be the first non-Pacific (and first inland!) state to ban shark fins in the United States.
Why is this an important issue for Illinois? Chicago is a hub for shark fins in the Midwest, and lawmakers are concerned. Shark fins are considered an Asian delicacy, and one fin can sell for several hundred dollars. This creates a lucrative business for shark fishermen, some of whom use a cruel practice called “finning”—cutting the fins off a live shark and then throwing the bleeding animal overboard to die. Finning is illegal in U.S. waters, but fins sold in the U.S. may be imported from countries that allow finning. And even in the U.S., shark populations are struggling, with some populations having declined by 90%.
Every shark fin sold contributes to the disappearance of our sharks. We’re so happy that the Illinois legislature is recognizing the danger to our oceans, and we hope that Governor Quinn signs the bill and makes Illinois a Midwest leader for our oceans.
Manta rays are one of the most fascinating and unique ocean creatures. As the largest of all the rays, giant manta rays can reach up to 22 feet.
But we have been shocked to discover that Alibaba.com, the world’s largest business-to-business commerce website, with over 65 million registered users, is selling manta ray leather. We are asking you to sign a letter to the president and founder of Alibaba.com to urge this company to stop selling manta ray products.
Today, the world’s manta rays are in trouble, because fisheries are pushing many populations toward collapse. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies giant mantas and reef mantas as “vulnerable,” to extinction, and the trends for the majority of manta populations remain unknown.
What’s driving the development of fisheries for manta rays? These animals are prized for several body parts, including their skin, which is made into “leather,” their gill rakers (bony structures inside their gills), which are ground to a powder for traditional Chinese medicine, and their cartilage, which is used as a filler in shark-fin soup. Demand for manta ray parts continues to rise, even though there are available substitutes for manta ray leather, gill rakers have been found to have no medicinal qualities, and cartilage adds no flavor to shark-fin soup.
Only once these products are taken off the market and the overall demand from manta ray parts is reduced do these vulnerable animals have a shot at recovery.
In spite of their formidable size, these ocean giants are not to be feared: they are gentle plankton-feeders that spend their time gliding peacefully through the open ocean of the tropics. There are two species of manta rays, and the chance to see an individual in the wild draws scores of tourists each year to manta ray “hotspots” in locales such as Hawaii, Micronesia, and Mozambique.
Like their shark relatives, manta rays are long-lived and mature slowly. They give birth to live pups every two to three years. These characteristics make manta rays extremely susceptible to overfishing, because populations can be fished out faster than they can be replaced. And once a manta ray population is depleted, it may take decades for full recovery to occur.
Today, the Maryland state Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on numerous bills including a bill that would ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark and ray fins.
This bill will help protect global shark populations by reducing the demand for their fins. Each year, tens of million sharks are killed so that their fins can be used in shark fin soup. In the United States, the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning is illegal. However, many fins are imported from all around the world, contributing to the demand for shark fins and the overfishing of sharks.
Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and California have already passed similar laws, and bills have also been introduced in New York, Illinois, Florida, and Virginia. Oceana supports Maryland’s initiative and asks that state residents do so as well.
Please show your support by telling your legislator to vote for SB 465!
The good news just keeps rolling in for sharks – this time from Toronto and Taiwan.
Yesterday the Toronto City Council voted to ban the sale and use of shark fins in the city; the ban will take effect in September 2012.
Meanwhile, Taiwan has announced its intention to ban the practice of shark finning starting next year, a step forward in promoting the sustainable fishing and humane treatment of sharks. Shark finning is the practice of cutting the valuable fins off of sharks, and throwing the dead or dying body back in the ocean. Shark fins are used to make shark fin soup, a popular and expensive dish that is served primarily in China and Taiwan.
While the new regulation won’t stop the catching of sharks, it will mean that boats have to bring the whole shark in to port. This means that the species and size of the caught sharks can be monitored, and therefore can help assess the trends in populations.
While this is a step in the right direction, it is important to reduce the demand for shark fins as well. Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for the global shark fin trade, and according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, about 20 percent of all sharks are threatened with extinction.
That’s why Oceana works to save sharks from overfishing. You can help by supporting our work to protect sharks!
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Calling all Californians: Right now your Governor, Jerry Brown, is considering legislation that would effectively end the trade of shark fins. As you’re probably aware, trade in shark fins facilitates the practice of shark finning, which is one of the single biggest contributors to the collapse of shark populations around the globe.
The California State Senate passed a bill to end the trade in California, A.B. 376, earlier this month and we expect the governor to sign or veto the bill this week, so your rapid input is critical.
Fans of sharks have undoubtedly noticed that protections for the oceans' great predators have really ramped up in the last couple of years - and now the New York Times has taken notice, too.
Reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal quoted Oceana's very own Elizabeth Wilson in yesterday's article about the proliferation of shark finning and trade bans. In the last year, the West Coast has neared a total ban on finning and trade, and the U.S. and Chile have passed national bans on finning. Oceana has been an integral part of advocating for shark protections, as tens of millions of sharks, including some rare and endangered species, are killed each year for their fins.
As Elizabeth said in the Times: "We're really enthusiastic to see good things finally starting to happen for sharks."
And we're thrilled by all the Oceana Wavemakers who joined us in the fight to save sharks. There's still time to help: If you're a California resident, you can call Gov. Jerry Brown to encourage him to sign the shark fin ban, AB 376, that was passed by the state Senate last week into law at 916-445-2841. Call by Oct. 9, which is the deadline for it to be passed. The sharks thank you!
Editor's note: Happy Shark Week! All week long we'll be re-capping some highlights from Shark Week programming, starting with today, and "Great White Invasion."
Great white sharks appear to be more common than ever nowadays, according to “Great White Invasion,” which aired last night as a part of Shark Week's first night of programming. The episode tracked these huge predators as they encroach on popular beaches from Australia to South Africa to southern California.
Why they are coming closer to shore is not completely understood, but scientists point to the availability of fish as well as the opportunity for sharks to sunbathe and enjoy higher oxygen levels in shallower waters as possible explanations. And even though the number of annual shark attacks worldwide has risen in recent years, it is still extremely low compared to the number of beachgoers.
So are great whites really “invading” our coastlines? Not quite. In fact, according to the Census for Marine Life, scientists estimate that there are only about 3,500 great white sharks left in the entire world. Of these, an estimated 219 live off the central California coast, so in reality, sharks aren’t exactly swarming in our oceans just yet.
Fantastic news! Earlier this afternoon, the Chilean National Congress passed a nationwide ban on shark finning.
This groundbreaking decision comes on the heels of a very similar ban passed by the United States Congress last December, and puts both countries at the forefront of shark conservation. Oceana drafted the Chilean bill in January, and we are elated to see it pass into law – without a single dissenter.
Shark finning is an inhumane practice that often involves throwing the rest of the shark’s body back into the water once the desired fin is obtained. Despite its cruelty, shark finning is incredibly rampant, due to culinary demand from Asian countries such as China, where shark fin soup is popular.
With the passage of this bill, Chile joins a growing list of countries leading the way in shark conservation. Because sharks do not respect national boundaries, this legislation will help protect shark populations and ocean health in Chile and beyond.
Shark Truth asks couples holding traditional Chinese wedding feasts to drop one of the traditions: the controversial soup. According to Shark Truth, every ten bowls of soup kills one shark, and many of these couples are holding weddings with hundreds of guests. That's a lot of sharks saved!
The shark-loving couples sent in pictures (some of them quite funny!) of themselves to be voted on through June 6, and the winning couple will be given a honeymoon trip to Hawaii to cage-dive with sharks and see the creatures they are saving.
The practice of slicing off a shark's fin and throwing the shark (sometimes still alive) overboard is cruel, wasteful, and could lead to the extinction of some of these ancient creatures.
Aside from nixing shark fin soup, what else can you do to help? Oceana is urging the U.S. government to do all it can to protect the most vulnerable species. Sign our petition to protect hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks from finning.
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