Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000

Christine Billings is a student in the Coastal and Ocean Policy Master’s program at UNCW and is graduating this spring.  While studying Marine Biology as an undergraduate at UNCW and working at different aquariums, Christine developed an interest in marine policy.  Through her graduate study she studied marine species management policy. 

Today, more than one-quarter of all cartilaginous fish (sharks, rays, and chimeras) are threatened with extinction from human activities including overexploitation through fisheries and incidental by-catch.  According to OCEANA, the international advocacy group, one of the greatest threats to sharks is finning.  That practice of finning includes cutting off the shark's fins and throwing the body overboard leaving the shark at high risk of drowning, bleeding to death, or starving.  Finning is seen by OCEANA and many others as wasteful and inhumane. 

The main driver for shark finning is shark fin soup-  a delicacy in some Asian countries.  This soup is served during banquets and ceremonies and is a symbol of wealth and power.  Recently, LA Weekly, a popular news magazine in Los Angeles, reported ‘Shark Fin Soup Could Become Extinct Across the United States.'  California has banned shark fin trade, which bans possession and sale of fins, and encourages other states to follow their lead.  Shark fin soup is the main contributor to people finning and would, thus, become extinct if no one can have possession or sale fins in the U.S.  They are also in support of the proposed Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, this would affect all 50 states, but is still being discussed. 

A similar act that banned the practice of shark finning is the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000.  The Act aims to put an end to shark finning practices by prohibiting the removal of shark fins and discarding the carcass.  It also “prohibits having custody, control, or possession of any such fin aboard a fishing vessel without the corresponding carcass, and to land any such fin." 

The graph below uses data from NOAA and shows the weight of dried shark fins exported from the United States.  The data illustrates a decrease in the amount of exported shark fins from the U.S. following the implementation of the Shark Finning Prohibition Act.  Still, still continued shark fin exports indicates that shark finning still occurs in the US.

Is there no hope for our sharks? 

Some potential solutions include continuing international negotiations, more science and record keeping, and banning the trade of shark fins.  The Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016 would make it “illegal to possess, buy, sell, transport, or trade shark fins or any product containing shark fins in the United States."  Congress is still discussing the act and it has not passed the Senate or the House.  This act is one potential solution to regulating the exportation and importation of fins into the United States.

This is not just a matter of protection, but also a matter of better record keeping in the U.S.  NOAA’s latest Shark Finning Report to Congress states that the status of shark stocks and stock complexes in U.S. Fisheries in 2015 are unknown.  This demonstrates the need to develop proper record keeping when catching sharks and more research is necessary to determine the health of shark populations.  By just banning trade and finning, the larger market is still in production. 

More conversations between international leaders need to occur to help the vulnerable shark populations.


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