By Elizabeth Brown
Over the last decade, the U.S. has been one of the world leaders in shark conservation. But now U.S. shark conservation could take a step backwards.
Since 2000, the U.S. has banned shark finning – the cruel practice where fishermen catch a shark, cut off its fins, and discard the rest of the body back to sea. For decades, fishermen around the globe have been killing sharks for their fins. The fins fetch a high price for their use in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. But years of shark finning has depleted shark populations. And it has left many sharks threatened with extinction.
In 2010, the U.S. further strengthened its shark fining ban by passing the Shark Conservation Act, which requires that all sharks brought to shore have their fins naturally intact. This law helps ensure that no shark finning occurs.
While the national shark finning ban helps protect sharks in U.S. waters, some U.S. states decided to take shark protections even further. Between 2010 and 2013, eight U.S. states banned the trade of shark fins. The bans have helped reduce demand for shark fins in the U.S., reducing shark fin imports by 68%. This helps discourage shark finning in other countries that still allow this practice and protects vulnerable shark species around the globe.
But now, U.S federal fishery managers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are proposing a new shark rule, which could override these state shark fin trade bans1. NOAA says that state shark fin trade bans restrict a fishermen’s ability to legally catch sharks and later sell their fins.
How could this make sense? Why would you allow the sale and trade of shark fins, if shark finning is prohibited? The federal government is thinking that although they have outlawed landing only fins, landing the whole shark and selling the fins (or meat, jaws or any other part) is still legal for most species. The feds want to enforce a “finning” ban (meaning, again, that a boat cannot come to the dock with just the sharks’ fins) while allowing the sale of fins from legally landed shark carcasses. Yes, it’s complicated.
But why would you want to take away state laws that are helping protect sharks? Allowing the trade of shark fins encourages the continued unsustainable harvest of shark fins worldwide, which continues to put the future of sharks in jeopardy. So it seems to me, we should push for more shark fin trade bans, rather than take existing sharks fin bans away.
If U.S. federal fishery managers override the state shark fin trade bans it would be a step backwards for shark conservation in the U.S. and worldwide. More....