Now that we’ve taken some time to learn a little bit about shark fin soup as well as a few of the environmental impacts of shark finning, it is finally time for the third, and final installment of our series. Although Shark Week 2013 was the original inspiration for these posts, once I began my research, it was clear that the practice of shark finning for shark fin soup needed more attention than could be given in a single post. Shark fin legislation is something that has found a great deal of news coverage in the past year, especially in the United States, and I think it is an essential element for a complete understanding of the issue.
Shark Finning Laws
On December 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act (SFPA) into law. Though there had been previous legislation regarding sharks, and shark fishing in particular, the SFPA was a major step towards ending the inhumane treatment of the animal. Specifically, the SFPA made it illegal for any vessel within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone to practice shark finning as well as for any U.S.-flagged fishing vessel in international waters to possess shark fins. Thus, the act was essential in making the practice of shark finning illegal in the United States, and in 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service gave a Shark Finning Report to Congress regarding the legislation.
Though the Act was a vast improvement to prior legislation, it contained a substantial loophole. If a vessel was found to be carrying shark fins purchased from other vessels, it did not come under the jurisdiction of the SFPA, since the vessel in question did not aid or assist in the original procurement of the fins. This loophole has since been closed through the Shark and Fishery Conservation Act of 2010, signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. In addition, the Shark and Fishery Conservation Act of 2010 prohibits the landing of any shark carcass without its corresponding fins “naturally attached.”
Shark Fin Trade
Since 2000 there have certainly been many advancements in U.S. legislation protecting sharks, but the movement is not merely federal. Just last month the state of New York passed a law banning its citizens from trading shark fins. The law, which takes effect July 1, 2014, is just another means to combat the inhumane treatment of sharks in the process of finning as well as depleting shark populations. As stated in a July 2013 New York Times article, “So-called ‘finning’ of sharks — catching them, cutting off their fins and returning them to the water to die — is already illegal in U.S. and New York coastal waters,” but the trading of shark fins has not faced the same strict legal prohibition. Rather, this is limited on a state-by-state basis.
Humane Society International has published an extensive list regarding regional and global regulations on shark protection and shark finning. The list identifies Illinois, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, and Delaware as states that currently ban the sale of shark fins and products. Clearly, with only seven states making the list, there is still work to be done.
The practice of shark finning is a global issue on which people hold differing opinions. Though I am certainly no expert on the topic, I hope that the three articles I have posted have helped you to learn more about shark finning, shark fin soup, and the problems that surround the inhumane treatment of sharks. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. No matter what your opinion, the sharing of ideas and honest, open dialogue is the first step in making a positive change for the environment!