Yesterday, on World Ocean 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 — as part of a broader legislative package known as the United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260). Similar legislation (H.R. 2811) to ban the shark fin trade has been introduced in the House of Representatives and currently has more than 130 bipartisan cosponsors.
“This is a great day for sharks and our oceans,” said Whitney Webber, campaign director at Oceana. “We’re now one step closer to officially removing the United States from the shark fin trade. We applaud Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) for their steadfast leadership in championing this important legislation, and Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) for their support of the bill during committee markup last month. The House already showed its support when it passed this bill in the last Congress (310-107), but we’re now calling on them again. The demand for shark fins is decimating shark populations, and the U.S. must do its part to help protect them. The U.S. needs a fin ban now.”
The Senate also passed an amendment, as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act, that helps to address forced labor and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Oceana applauds the Senate for taking additional steps to ensure that seafood imported into the United States is legally caught and responsibly sourced.
A study published in Nature earlier this year found that global oceanic shark and ray populations have declined by more than 70% over the last 50 years, with overfishing as the primary cause.
The demand for shark fins incentivizes overfishing and shark finning, the cruel and wasteful practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and throwing its body back overboard where it drowns, starves to death, or is eaten alive by other fish. Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the market ever year. Just as rhino and elephant populations have declined due to the demand for their horns and tusks, the shark fin trade is jeopardizing the continued survival of many shark populations.
Although shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, fins can still be bought and sold throughout much of the United States. These fins are often imported from countries that have inadequate protections in place for sharks.
According to a poll released by Oceana late last year, nearly 9 in 10 registered American voters oppose the practice of shark finning, and almost 80% support legislation to ban the sale and trade of shark fins throughout the United States.
As of today, 13 states, more than 45 airlines, 15 major corporations (including Amazon, Hilton and Disney) and 22 shipping companies have refused to transport or trade shark fins. Nearly 700 businesses — including more than 100 dive shops and scuba businesses, several aquariums and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment — support a national fin ban. Other support includes more than 150 scientists, 150 chefs, 140 fishermen, and 85 surfers and surf businesses.
Sharks are also good for the economy. According to an Oceana report, the value of shark-related dives in Florida in 2016 was more than 200 times the value of shark fin exports for the entire country in the same year. Shark encounters supported more than 3,700 jobs in Florida, with a total economic impact to the state of more than $377 million.