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House Votes to Pass Shark Fin Trade Ban

A bill to end the USA shark fin trade reintroduced by Representatives Sablan and McCaul passed through the Congress with a strong bipartisan majority Thursday.

House lawmakers passed the measure that would ban buying and selling shark fins in the United States and help the country fight illegal fishing and overfishing sharks. As part of the huge National Defense Authorization Act (HR 776), the “END Wildlife Trafficking Act” includes the shark fin sale provision.   

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would prohibit the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States. This law will eliminate the role of the USA in the global shark fin trade threatening endangered sharks, and help restore healthy ocean habitats and shark populations. Among other protections including in the Defense Authorization Act are provisions to restrict wildlife trafficking, provisions include supporting marine mammals and coral reefs.

Globally shark populations are on the decline. A 2020 study found 77% of oceanic species of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction. The bill moves to the Senate for their support.

Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, removing the fin from the shark alive or dead, and discarding the shark back into the ocean to suffer and drown. Condemned by the United Nations, shark finning is already illegal in the U.S. and over 50 nations , but the high value and increased market for shark fins is creating huge incentive for fishermen to take the fins and discard the shark. Overfishing of sharks and sharks killed as bycatch all contribute to the decline of over one third of all species of sharks, and the wildlife trade is a major contributor to the problem.

This move by the House to protect sharks and other wildlife from trafficking is a major step towards saving endangered sharks like the oceanic whitetip shark from extinction. This law, when passed, will send a message to poachers, traffickers and unscrupulous fishermen that sharks will be protected.”

David McGuire, Director Shark Stewards

Shark Stewards has long supported lawmakers to ban the shark fin trade overall in order to reduce trade and exert pressure on the global market.

The passage of the law follows very close on an international agreement to restrict the trade of fins and parts from over 90 species of sharks and rays under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) including critically endangered and threatened species of sharks prominent in the shark fin trade.

The defense authorization bill will head now to the upper chamber for another vote. The Biden administration has supported measures to curb illegal fishing in international waters including addressing labor issues in the fishing industry. If it clears the Senate, it will be sent to President Biden’s desk for his signature.