House Act will increase protection for sharks, marine mammals, wildlife trafficking and spread of animal spread disease.
Washington, DC—On February 4, 2022 the House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521), a bill aimed at bolstering US innovation, with several provisions that would benefit sharks and other wildlife, including reducing risk of diseases from wildlife trade including COVID.
Additionally, the America COMPETES Act includes language that would strengthen US fisheries management and funding for coral reef restoration.
The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act
Although shark finning is illegal in US waters, the international shark fin trade supports illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and transport, including the unsustainable and brutal trade by providing a market for shark fins. 14 US states have shark fin sales bans, but many allow local consumption and trade across state lines from bordering states and countries, much of it for re-export to Asia.
The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would prohibit the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States. This law will remove America from the global shark fin trade and help restore healthy ocean habitats and shark populations in US and international waters.
The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act
This bill would phase out harmful large mesh drift gillnets used in federal waters off the coast of California. This is the only place that these are still used in the United States. Large mesh driftnets are used to catch swordfish and thresher sharks. However, at more than a mile long, they also indiscriminately kill or severely injure many non-targeted animals such as sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and especially sharks, including threatened and endangered marine species.
The Marine Mammal Research and Response Act would fund efforts by local governments and nonprofit organizations to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals. It would also support research efforts to determine the causes of stranding events.
Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act
H.R. 4521 would fight wildlife trafficking including provisions aimed at curbing the spread of zoonotic diseases. It requires the treasury secretary to conduct a study on global wildlife trafficking and its illicit profits, and authorizes $150 million annually until 2030 to expand the US Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement attaché program. This program uses criminal investigators to work with other nations to combat wildlife trafficking. H.R. 4521 also includes the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act, which would make it easier for the USFWS to prosecute wildlife trafficking cases and authorize harsher penalties for wildlife traffickers, provide anti-poaching resources to countries in need, and address corruption by holding countries accountable for failing to observe international anti-trafficking laws.
Preventing Future Pandemics Act The Preventing Future Pandemics Act establishes as a US diplomatic priority working with international government and nongovernmental partners to shut down certain commercial wildlife markets and build coalitions to reduce the demand for wildlife and limit zoonotic diseases like COVID. H.R. 4521 also would add up to a three-year emergency ban on the importation of wildlife that pose imminent threats, including to human health, and prohibits the transportation across state lines of species listed as injurious under the Lacey Act.T he bill also authorizes the government to undertake programs to help transition communities globally to safer, non-wildlife sources of protein.
In June, the Senate passed its version of this bill, the US Innovation and Competition Act (S.1260), which included the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act. The two chambers will now reconcile differences between their versions of the bill. The House and Senate will then vote on the final reconciled bill.