Cantwell Introduces Bill to Help Halt Senseless Slaughter of Sharks
Sens. Booker, Capito, McCain, and Blumenthal join effort to end cruel shark fin practices
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) along with U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016, a measure that seeks to prohibit the import of shark fins in the United States.
Shark finning, which contributes to the decline of shark populations around the world, is a cruel practice in which the fins of a shark are cut off on board a fishing vessel at sea. The remainder of the animal is then thrown back into the water to drown, starve, or die a slow death.
“Sharks play a critical role in ocean ecosystems, yet global shark populations are declining. We must put an end to cruel shark finning practices, which kill 70 million sharks around the globe each year,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Washington state passed a shark fin ban in 2011—and I strongly support enacting national polices to reduce shark finning, and improve shark conservation, nationwide.”
Specifically, the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016 seeks to:
- Remove the U.S. contribution of shark fins to the global market;
- Allow for stronger enforcement of the “no finning” ban in the United States; and
- Put the U.S. in a stronger position to advocate internationally for abolishing the fin trade in other countries.
Although the United States has banned the practice of shark finning aboard vessels in U.S.-controlled waters, there is no federal ban on the removal and sale of shark fins once brought ashore. Once a shark fin is detached from the body, it is almost impossible to determine whether the shark was legally caught or the fin lawfully removed. Determination of species is also difficult, which is problematic given that some shark species are threatened with extinction.
Eleven states (WA, TX, DE, HI, IL, MA, MD, NY, OR, RI, CA) and three territories (American Samoa, Guam, and the North Mariana Islands) have already implemented bans on the sale of fins. A proposed ban is currently pending in the New Jersey state Senate.
Between 2000 and 2011, the U.S. imported a yearly average of 36 tons of dried shark fins, including from countries that have few or no protections in place for sharks.
"The Recreational Fishing Alliance is in full support of Senator Booker's efforts to prohibit the commercial trade of shark fins," Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. "A prohibition on the commercial trade of shark fins is the best management practice to curtail the unethical killing of sharks for their fins and the illegal market that continues to persist in the US due to the high price per pound that shark fins demand.
The Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016 is endorsed by The American Sportfishing Association, Oceana, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the Humane Society of the United States, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
Other Senators joining Cantwell to introduce the legislation said:
“Every year, it is estimated fins from as many as 70 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade,” Sen. Booker said. “Shark finning is pushing some species of sharks to the brink of extinction. With this bipartisan measure, America can become a global leader by shutting down the domestic market for shark fins. Sharks play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems, and we must do more to protect them.”
“The cruel practice of shark finning is not only appalling, it is bad for our oceans and the health of sea life. By eliminating America’s contribution to the global shark fin market and allowing for stronger enforcement of the ‘no finning’ ban, the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016 is good policy, and simply the right thing to do,” Sen. Capito said.
“The cruel practice of shark finning is not only decimating the shark population, but also damaging entire ocean ecosystems,” Sen. McCain said. “It’s past time we put an end to this unacceptable practice, and this legislation has the teeth to make a significant impact.”
“Shark finning is a sordid practice that is not only cruel to every butchered shark left to die finless in the ocean, but also damages the species’ population and threatens the entire ocean ecosystem,” Sen. Blumenthal said. “By banning the sale and possession of shark fins in our country, this legislation would establish the United States as a leader in the global effort to stop this inhumane business.”
“This bill is an important step toward ensuring that the practice of shark finning is stopped at the global level, and the United States is no longer a participant in the trade of illegal shark fins,” Sen. Murkowski said. “I do have concerns about the effect this may have on American fishermen engaged in the legal harvest of sharks, and I look forward to working with Senator Booker to address this issue. Together, we can find a solution to protect our fisheries, our oceans, and our marine ecosystems.”
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