Sharks have been particularly newsworthy of late, what with shark attacks, numerous beach closures, and shark attack movie releases.
Although most people are frightened of ultimately becoming this apex predator’s snack, what many may not realize is that sharks are often actually the ones on the menu – shark fins, that is.
Shark fins are the main ingredient for a popular, luxury dish known as shark fin soup. The market for the dish drives from the shark finning industry, which is one of the biggest threats to shark populations today.
Shark finning is the process by which the fins are cut off of a shark and the shark’s body is abandoned at sea. Without its fins, the shark can drown, bleed out, or become prey for other fish.
This process is outlawed in the United States. But, shark fins continue to be purchased and sold and even imported through California ports.
Now, Congress has stepped up to do something about the black market shark fin trade. In early March, U.S. Representatives Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan introduced the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 1456) that makes it illegal to possess, buy, or sell shark fins within the United States.
Although bans like this are already in place in eleven U.S. states, including California, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act will expand the ban to have a nationwide reach.
This is crucial because according to Chairman Royce’s press release, the global shark fin market is made up of as many as 73 million sharks every year. On top of that, 70 percent of the most commonly finned sharks are at a “high” or “very high” risk of extinction.
“The United States can set an example for the rest of the world by shutting down its market for shark fins, which are often harvested by leaving these animals to die a slow and painful death at the bottom of the ocean,” said Chairman Royce.
Oceana, an international organization exclusively dedicated to protecting and restoring our oceans, has been a huge supporter of this bill. To ensure that the bill moves forward they are working to foster a wide range of support, including separate petitions for surfers and chefs in support of the legislation.
Hollywood and often the media paint sharks out to be scary, man-eating creatures, but it turns out that it’s actually the other way around.