US Senate passes Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act

A dogfish shark being measured by NOAA Scientists.

The U.S. Senate has passed the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (SFSEA), moving a commercial ban on the trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins closer to reality.

The U.S. Senate ended up passing the bill on 8 June as part of a broader legislative package – the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. That bill will now head down to the U.S. House, where both chambers will negotiate the final form of the package.

The likelihood of the language of the SFSEA reamining included in the legislation is high, as U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-Mariana Islands) reintroduced the standalone act in April. They first introduced the bill in 2019, where it passed with strong bipartisan support before stalling in the Senate.  

“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,” Sablan said. “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.”

The news of the efforts passage in the Senate was applauded by Humane Society Legislative Fund President Sara Amundson.

“This victory for sharks is overdue, as the international fin trade is forcing many of these apex species toward extinction,” she wrote in a blog post. “Passage of this bill is an important step in ending this horrific trade.”

Hundreds of businesses and nonprofits have also supported a ban on the trade of shark fins in the past.

However, the fishing industry in the U.S. has opposed bans, citing the country’s successful management of its shark fisheries.

“The United States has some of the best-managed shark fisheries in the world. Our laws and regulations prevent overfishing while maximizing commercial fishing opportunities and the economic value of our shark fisheries,” Former National Marine Fisheries Service Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver said in a statement, issued on 18 February, 2020. “Part of our science-based management is allowing fishermen to sell both the meat and fins of sustainably harvested sharks.”

Oliver argued that U.S. fin sales bans would not benefit management in U.S. waters, and would have little impact on the global trade.

A similar bill passed in the New Jersey state legislature in 2019 also drew criticism from local fishing groups.

"All this legislation does is to penalize legitimate, hard-working fishermen of the state," Garden State Seafood Association Executive Director Greg DiDomenico said in a statement. "Instead of acknowledging the leadership of our commercial industry, which operates a globally recognized sustainable shark fishery, those supporting this legislation will penalize New Jersey fishermen, forcing them to discard a natural resource for no purpose."    

Photo courtesy of NOAA


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