81% of registered voters would like a national ban on shark fins (Oceana). Photo (c) John Voo
Let’s Prove that Americans Don’t Want Shark Fins in The U.S.
When most people think of the devastating global trade of animal products, they probably think of elephant tusks or rhino horns – the demand for which has devastated these populations in recent decades. However, with many countries around the world, including the United States, now banning these products, these animals have been given a second chance to recover and thrive. Most Americans do not know though that the U.S. still participates in a global trade that is decimating animal populations around the world: shark fins.
It’s estimated the fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global fin trade every year, mainly as an ingredient in the Asian dish shark fin soup. This demand for fins is severely jeopardizing the survival of certain shark populations around the world and can lead to the brutal practice of shark finning – when a fisherman cuts the fins off of a shark and throws the body back overboard, usually to drown, bleed to death or to be eaten alive.
Although shark finning has been illegal in U.S. waters since 2000, the U.S. has imported fins from 11 other countries, almost half of which do not have bans on finning. In the same period of time, 11 U.S. states and three territories have passed laws prohibiting the trade of shark fins within their individual borders. However, thousands of tons of fins still continue to enter the U.S. every year, including from shark species that are at risk of extinction. In effect, the U.S. has banned the practice but not the product and, thus, is still indirectly supporting this brutal practice.
But there is bright news on the horizon for shark lovers. Last year, Congress sought to address this loophole by introducing the bipartisan Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act, which would ban the sale of shark fins within the entire U.S. It was reintroduced on March 9, 2017 by Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-MP).
According to an Oceana report, a nationwide ban on the trade of shark fins would reduce the already declining international fin trade, improve enforcement of the current finning ban, and send a message to other countries that the United States recognizes sharks are in need of protection.
In addition to the critical ecological benefits that sharks provide to healthy marine ecosystems, they also are a large economic contributor. One study found that shark-watchers spend an estimated $314 million globally on shark ecotourism every year. The one-time revenue a shark’s fins bring is considerably lower than their potential revenue over time in the tourism industry.
It is clear that Americans do not want shark fins in our country. A 2016 national poll commissioned by Oceana found that 81 percent of registered voters said they support the legislation and would like a national ban on shark fins. If this bill is passed, the U.S. would join a global movement against shark fins, which include numerous airlines like American Airline, Air China, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, hotel chains like Marriott, Starwood and Hilton and private companies like Amazon, Disney, UPS and GrubHub. The Chinese government has stopped serving shark fin soup at official government banquets, and other countries have banned the fin trade all together.
Shutting down the U.S. market for shark fins would be a tremendous step forward in global shark conservation, and is an issue that both sides of the political aisle agree on. It’s an issue that organizations such as Oceana, backed by generous commitments from conservation groups such as Louis Bacon’s Moore Charitable Foundation, will keep fighting for. Shark fins have no place in the U.S., and it is time that Congress makes that official.