On Tuesday, June 8 – World Oceans Day – the U.S. Senate passed the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S. 1106), a bill that would ban the buying and selling of shark fins in the United States. This legislative milestone is a first and was made possible thanks to campaigning by Oceana and our allies.
The bill was contained in a broader legislative package known as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260), formerly called the Endless Frontier Act. It now goes to the House of Representatives. Oceana continues to campaign for the House to, once again, pass this nationwide prohibition and remove the U.S. from the international fin trade.
Fins from up to 73 million sharks continue to enter the international fin trade each year – many destined for China. The inhumane act of shark finning involves cutting the fins off a shark and discarding its body at sea, where it drowns, bleeds to death, or is eaten alive by other fish. The fin trade is driving overfishing and prompting huge drops in shark populations, just as the ivory trade decimated elephants.
Oceanic sharks and rays have declined by at least 71% since 1970, mainly because of overfishing, according to a first-of-its-kind study published earlier this year in Nature. A study in Science Advances projects that up to 62% of all shark species risk going extinct in the next century, if we do not take action. That’s approaching levels of mass extinction. Entire marine ecosystems and the food security of seafood-dependent peoples stands at risk.
It is critical that the U.S. government act now to reduce the demand for shark fins, before it is too late.
A national prohibition would improve enforcement of the country’s current finning ban, reinforce the status of the U.S. as a leader in shark conservation, and bring the world closer to ending the devastating trade in shark fins. Supporters of a U.S. shark fin ban include 13 U.S. states (including Texas, New York, and others voting both red and blue), 3 territories, 47 airlines, UPS and 21 other shipping companies, 15 major corporations including Amazon and Hilton, and 700 U.S. businesses and organizations. Neighboring Canada dealt a blow to the shark fin industry when its national government banned the import and export of shark fins in 2019, following campaigning by Oceana and our allies. At the time, Canada was the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia.
At Oceana, we win policy victories that restore the health and abundance of our oceans. These victories are typically hard fought, and you can expect the final round of this fight for sharks to be no different. Last year, in the 116th U.S. Congress, the tables were turned. The House showed broad bipartisan support when it passed the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, 310 to 107. In the Senate, however, opponents blocked the bill. Having now overcome those opponents, our focus shifts back to the House.
Companion legislation (H.R. 2811) in the House currently has more than 130 bipartisan cosponsors, and our team continues to enlist more. The two chambers of Congress will likely conference to reconcile the greater U.S. Innovation and Competition Act legislative package. The fin ban will need support from as many representatives as possible to ensure it is preserved in the final version that arrives on President Joe Biden’s desk.
I encourage you to contact your Representative and ask her or him to support the passage of a fin ban now. The U.S. must lead to help stop the rapid decline of sharks.