Congressmen Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the CNMI's delegate to Congress and Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas reintroduced the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, which bans the buying and selling of shark fins in the United States.
The same bill, introduced by Sablan and McCaul, had strong bipartisan support and passed in the last Congress, but the Senate took no action.
The act of shark finning – cutting off the fin of a shark and then discarding the maimed animal, often still alive, back to sea – is illegal in the United States.
However, these wrongly obtained fins are still imported and exported on American soil, which serves to legitimize the unethical trade chiefly responsible for sharks’ declining populations.
“The gruesome shark-finning practices are eliminating shark populations and putting many species on the brink of extinction,” said McCaul. “Sharks play a vital role in our marine ecosystem, serving as an indicator of the overall health of our ocean. Thus, making this bipartisan legislation that much more important as it will promote conservation and responsible fishing practices that are good for the environment and our economy.”
“The strong, bipartisan support for this legislation sends a clear message that we have to pay more attention to protecting the Earth’s oceans and the life within those oceans,” said Sablan.
“Banning the sale of shark fins to help end this wasteful and cruel practice is important, but just a small step on the way to giving the oceans the full respect they must have in federal law. Ultimately, all life on Earth depends on the health of the oceans.”
Sablan and McCaul thanked Oceana, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and the Animal Welfare Institute for those environmental organizations’ work to build legislative support for the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act.
The bill was cosponsored by 104 members of Congress when its was introduced today, more than twice the number of original cosponsors as in the last Congress.
Whitney Webber, campaign director at Oceana, said she is confident of the bill's fate in this time.
“It’s rare to find an issue that brings together the political, business and conservation communities," she said. "We know the demand for fins is decimating shark populations around the world and this is a clear and easy way to help reduce it."
Webber said it’s time for the U.S. to once again be a leader in shark conservation.
" We must join our allies in Canada, who have closed their borders to the destructive shark fin trade and do the same in the United States. We look forward to finding a path forward on this important issue that a majority of Americans support. The U.S. needs a fin ban now,” she added.
Each year, 73 million shark fins end up on the global market – the United States contributes to this demand by importing fins, with 540,000 pounds imported in 2017, from around the world.
According to the bill's author, the legislation will still allow for commercial and recreational fishing of sharks but would end the harmful trade of shark fins—the leading cause of the inhumane practice of shark finning.