This week brought great news for shark populations that are dwindling both in U.S. waters and worldwide. Today, the Delaware House of Representatives introduced a bill prohibiting the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fins within the state. If passed, House Bill 41 would make Delaware the first East Coast state to pass a ban on the shark fin trade, following in the footsteps of Oregon, Washington, California, Hawaii and Illinois.
Current federal law prohibits shark finning in U.S. waters, requiring that sharks be brought into port with their fins still attached. However, this law does not prohibit the sale and trade of processed fins that are imported into the country from other regions that could have weak or even nonexistent shark protections in place.
This unsustainable catch is driven by the demand for shark fins, often used as an ingredient in shark fin soup, and kills millions of sharks every year. Delaware’s bill would close the loopholes that fuel the trade and demand for fins, and ensure that the state is not a gateway for shark products to enter into other U.S. state markets.
Not only was there great news coming out of the U.S., international shark lovers have reason to celebrate as well. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), voted this week to place stricter regulations on the trade of manta rays, three species of hammerheads, oceanic whitetip and porbeagle sharks, acknowledging that these species are in dire need of protection. When countries export these species, they are required to possess special permits that prove these species were harvested sustainably. This decision will greatly curb illegal overfishing and reduce the numbers of endangered sharks killed globally.
Rarely is there ever one solution or decision that will save a threatened or endangered species from extinction. Rather, successful conservation depends on numerous coordinated initiatives, agreements, and regulations that eventually lead to the recovery of wildlife populations.
The introduction of Delaware’s bill is just one step forward in a larger process. Hopefully, Delaware will pass the bill into law and other East Coast states will follow Delaware’s lead in protecting sharks. There are currently similar bills being considered by legislators in Maryland and New York, and if passed, these three states could put a huge dent in the shark fin trade in the U.S. In the same way, simply being listed under CITES alone will not fully prevent the overfishing, illegal harvests or significant bycatch of threatened sharks, which is why Oceana and others continue to promote conservation measures in the U.S. and around the world.
Check back to learn more about encouraging your legislators to support shark conservation measures.
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