Late last year, I wrote to you about how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration took actions that placed state shark fin bans in jeopardy. These bans, which close down the market for imported shark fins, are incredibly important to halting the finning and capture of tens of millions of sharks each year.
After months of public campaigning and pressure by Oceana and other conservation groups, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has officially backed down from a proposal that would undermine bans on the sale of shark fins in Washington, Maryland and California. NOAA has not yet ruled on other states, or clarified whether it will drop disturbing language in a new shark fishing rule.
Each year, millions of sharks are slaughtered for their fins to meet the demand for shark fin soup. Over the past few years, several U.S. states passed laws against the trade in shark fins to help shut down the market. In the recent issue of Oceana magazine, we reveal how a government agency is taking steps to undermine these bans.
You might not have heard, but sharks are in trouble from an unlikely source—our own federal government. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the government agency tasked with managing our nation’s fisheries, is taking steps to undermine state laws that protect sharks.
We have some encouraging news for you out of Hong Kong – the government of Hong Kong announced that it will no longer serve shark fin soup at government functions, and that it will encourage government-funded bodies to do the same.
“This news is big, and we are absolutely thrilled to share it with you – India has moved to outlaw shark finning! India ranks second only to Indonesia in terms of the number of sharks caught each year, so this ban is a major victory for ever-dwindling shark populations.
The brutal practice of shark finning involves slicing off a shark’s fins, often while the shark is still alive, then tossing the shark back into the water to drown or bleed to death. Shark meat is far less valuable than their fins, which means that their bodies take up precious cargo space, creating an incentive to only keep the most valuable parts and allowing more sharks to be caught on each trip. The United States and European Union have already banned the practice of shark finning in their respective waters
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.
Less than one week after passing the state Assembly, the Delaware state Senate has signed on to a bill banning the trade of shark fins within the state’s borders.
The states spanning the entire West Coast, plus Hawaii and Illinois, already have shark fin bans in place. In Maryland, a similar bill was just signed into law today by Governor Martin O'Malley, and the New York Legislature is considering a ban as well.
The gruesome practice of shark finning—slicing off a shark’s fins and throwing the body overboard, often while still alive—is illegal in the United States. But shark fin soup remains a pricey Asian delicacy, often selling for up to $100 a bowl, and fins can be imported from other countries where the practice is legal.
With the session ending in just three days, Delaware may become the first East Coast state to ban the shark fin trade. HB 324, the bill banning the sale, trade, possession and distribution of shark fins throughout the state, has already passed the Delaware State Assembly and it’s now up to the Senate to finish the job.
Shark fins are primarily used for shark fin soup, a delicacy in many Asian communities. This demand for shark fins, however, drives the cruel practice of shark finning, slicing a shark’s fins off and throwing the body overboard. This bill would decrease the demand for fins, and prevent Delaware from becoming a state used to transport fins to larger markets in other East Coast states, like New York.
Some species of sharks have declined by as much as 99 percent, mainly from the demand for shark fins. As the top predators in the ocean food chain, sharks help keep our oceans in balance.
The importance of passing a shark fin ban bill in Delaware is a small step in a bigger picture. Other states that have enacted laws banning shark fin sales include California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii, and similar legislation is awaiting Governor Pat Quinn’s signature in Illinois.
Oceana commends the Delaware State Assembly on their important action to save sharks, and calls upon the Delaware Senate to do the same!