Olympia, WA - Today, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill to further protect sharks and ocean ecosystems. The legislation, SB 5688, which previously passed the Washington Senate by a unanimous vote, will protect shark populations by banning the trade of shark fins in Washington. Oceana commends Senators Ranker, Swecker, Rockefeller, Litzow, Shin, and Kline for their extraordinary leadership to protect a species that has been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years.
“By signing this legislation the Governor took a very large west coast leadership role in initiating action to address a global problem,” said Whit Sheard, Senior Advisor and Pacific Counsel for Oceana. “This bill will do two things, help us move closer to ending the wasteful and unnecessary depletion of our ocean’s top predators and serve as a model for Oregon and California as they have similar pending legislation.”
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 system and even lead to the eventual disappearance of other populations, including commercially-caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food web.
Senator Ranker emphasized the critical nature of the legislation, “despite current efforts, shark populations along the west coast continue to shrink,” said Ranker. “This is a new way to combat the problem – and one which will work. Without this legislation, shark communities will only continue to decline until they become endangered or extinct.”
Current federal laws ban shark finning, but 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. Similar legislation passed recently in Hawaii and Guam, and is pending in Oregon and California.
“The demand for fins is literally wiping sharks off the planet,” said Susan Murray, Senior Director of the Pacific for Oceana. “We commend the State of Washington for stepping up to the plate for these top predators.”
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.