Washington, D.C. – Congress passed the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act tonight as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, sending the measure to President Biden for his signature in a matter of days. Last week, the Congress sent a captive wildlife protection measure – the Big Cat Public Safety Act – to the President to be signed into law as well.
“Congress has taken shark fins off the menu,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy, in celebrating Senate passage Thursday night of the shark protection measure. The Senate passed the defense bill 83–11, following a similarly lopsided vote in the House a few days ago.
The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act will halt the domestic trade in fins, used primarily as the centerpiece ingredient in shark-fin soup.
The legislation, introduced by Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.V., in the U.S. Senate and Gregorio Sablan, D-CNMI, and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, in the U.S. House of Representatives, was included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The underlying bills has nearly 300 cosponsors between them.
The anti-finning legislation was preceded by two laws on the same topic: 1) the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 that amended the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to prohibit shark finning in U.S. waters, and 2) the Shark Conservation Act of 2010, which amends the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act and the MSA to require that all sharks be brought to American shores with their fins intact.
“Shark finning conjures up the cruelty and wanton destruction of the medieval era,” added Pacelle. “But it’s more of a modern evil, and the United States has determined this trade is no longer legal in our nation.” Nobody really knows the global toll on sharks killed for their fins, but it has been estimated at an eye-popping 70 million a year.
The nonprofit group Oceana – which has played a crucial role in this legislation – calculated that shark-encounter scuba diving accounted for $221 million in economic activity in the state of Florida last year and was responsible for 3,797 jobs. Scuba divers and dive operations have become important allies in fighting shark finning.
We know it’s wrong to kill elephants for ivory, rhinos for their horns, and bears for their gall bladders. Commercial operators in each case are killing for just a small part of the animal and discarding the rest of the carcass as commercially unusable trash. The same is true for sharks and the slaughter of them for their fins.
Special credit goes to the four lead bill authors, to House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva and his staff, and to Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Brian Schatz, R-Hawaii, for helping to lead this fight.