Oceana Testifies Before Congress: Current Shark Finning Regulations Have Many Shortcomings
Press Release Date: November 2, 2017
Today, Oceana campaign director Lora Snyder testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a hearing titled, “Examining the Regulation of Shark Finning in the United States.” Congress took a major step to protect sharks from finning by enacting the Shark Finning Prohibition Act in 2000, which banned shark finning and discarding the carcass at sea. To close loopholes, Congress next enacted the Shark Conservation Act in 2010, which required that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached.
In her testimony, Snyder exposed multiple enforcement issues and loopholes with current finning regulations and urged Congress to pass a national ban on the trade of shark fins. In particular, she highlighted:
- There are large discrepancies on how many shark fins are entering and leaving the United States. According to the FAO’s report on the State of the Global Market for Shark Products, major foreign importers reported receiving an average 71 percent higher volume of shark fins than what the U.S. reported. Similarly, the report found that major exporters reported sending more than seven times more shark fins by volume than what the U.S. reported that it received from those countries.
- Shark fins are still being exported out of states with fin trade bans, in potential violation of state laws.
- The United States continues to import shark fins from countries without finning bans, including China, perpetuating the economic incentive for the act to continue.
- Fins from prohibited species are entering the U.S. market. Genetic tests on fins confiscated by NOAA identified species such as the great white and basking shark – both of which are prohibited in the United States.
Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global market every year. The demand for fins drives finning which is a cruel and wasteful practice that involves cutting the fins off a shark, often still alive, then dumping the body back into the water to be eaten alive, bleed to death or drown. While shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, fins continue to be bought and sold throughout the U.S, and often come from unsustainable foreign fisheries in countries that have ineffective or no shark finning bans. Twelve states (Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California, Illinois, Maryland Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Rhode Island, Nevada) and three territories have banned the sale and trade of shark fins within their borders.
“With previous legislation, the U.S. Congress has made its stance clear on the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning. And yet, fins from finned sharks, even likely including fins from sharks that are threatened or endangered, are being bought and sold in the United States. Additionally, previous laws did not address the main problem: too many sharks are being killed, and one of the main factors for this is the demand for their fins. But this is a solvable problem. A national ban like the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 1456) would solve many of the issues.
As the U.S. has led the world in fisheries management, and in halting the trade of other trafficked products like ivory and rhino horns, so too should we reclaim our role as a leader and show the world that we will not contribute to the demand for fins. We should not participate in the trade of a product that incentivizes a brutal practice that is driving declines in populations of these beautiful and important fish.”
To learn more, please visit usa.oceana.org/FinBanNow
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