Let's start with the good news: As of yesterday, July 1, California's shark fin ban (passed in 2011) officially came into effect! California grocers that stocked shark fins and restaurants that offered shark fin soup on the menu had 18 months to move their product. During the 18 month interim, the Los Angeles Times reports that one San Gabriel Valley restaurant specializing in the delicacy shut down, while several retailers in Chinatown bemoaned the large stock of shark fins still at hand.
We have some big news for you –Brunei has become the first Asian country to adopt a nationwide shark fin ban! With his June 7 announcement, Sultan Hossanal Bolkiah’s decree officially banned the catch and landing of all shark species from the waters of Brunei Darussalam, as well as shark fin sales in the domestic market, and the importation and trade of shark products.
We’ve got some great news to share with you – The European Union (EU) agreed on Thursday to tighten their existing ban on shark finning, and to effectively close a final loophole in the ban on finning. With the change, shark finning will be forbidden by all vessels in EU waters and by all EU-registered vessels around the world. “Shark finning is one of the main threats to the shark population,” Sandrine Polti, policy adviser to the Shark Alliance, explained to the Huffington Post. “We’re now in a much better position to push for a global shark-finning ban.”
Maryland made history today by becoming the first East Coast state to ban the possession, sale and distribution of shark fins throughout the state. They join the entire West Coast, as well as Illinois and Hawaii, in banning the fin trade, which drives the cruel and unnecessary act of shark finning and is contributing to the near-extinction of many shark species.
With as many as a third of all shark species in the world facing some threat of extinction, the future of sharks has been in peril for some time now. This month, however, French Polynesia and the Cook Islands have taken a stand for sharks, creating adjacent shark sanctuaries covering 2.5 million square miles of ocean – an area nearly equal to the continent of Australia! With this move, French Polynesia and the Cook Islands join Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, and Tokelau as countries that have created shark sanctuaries, more than doubling the area worldwide now off-limits to shark fishing. This largest sanctuary in the world also bans the possession, sale, or trade of shark products within its boundaries.
On December 6, French Polynesia created the world’s largest shark sanctuary at 1.5 million square miles, and the neighboring nation of the Cook Islands followed suit on December 19 with its designation of its entire exclusive economic zone – an area equal to the size of Mexico at 756,000 square miles -- as dedicated shark sanctuary waters. “We are proud as Cook Islanders to provide our entire exclusive economic zone…as a shark sanctuary,” Teina Bishop, Cook Island minister of marine resources told BBC News.
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!