Today Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber will sign a bill banning the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins within the state. The bill (HB 2838) passed the State House of Representatives and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill’s passage moves the U.S. West Coast closer to a full ban on the trade of shark fins, thereby helping to protect global populations of at-risk shark species that are being targeted in unsustainable and unregulated fisheries worldwide. Oceana commends Governor Kitzhaber for his extraordinary leadership to protect a species that has been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years.
“With the global trade in shark fins pushing sharks toward extinction, it will take strong actions such as this to prevent us from making irreversible changes to our ocean ecosystems,” said Whit Sheard, Senior Advisor and Pacific Counsel for Oceana. “The bipartisan support for this bill once again demonstrates that support for healthy oceans is a non-partisan issue,” added Sheard.
Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup. In this wasteful and cruel practice, a shark’s fins are sliced off while at sea and the remainder of the animal is thrown back into the water to die. Without fins, sharks bleed to death, drown, or are eaten by other species. In recent decades some shark populations have declined by as much as 99%. Removing sharks from ocean ecosystems can destabilize the ocean food web and even lead to declines in populations of other species, including commercially-caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food web.
While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the issue of the shark fin trade. Therefore, fins are being imported to the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place.
Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington State signed similar legislation into law on May 12, 2011 and a bill in the California legislature passed the Assembly and is currently under consideration in committee in the Senate. “The bipartisan passage of these bills in Oregon and Washington provide an example that we hope California will follow,” said Sheard. “Protecting species being driven to the edge of extinction by unsustainable human consumption should be a commonsense priority for legislatures across the country.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org