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End of shark fin trade in US - Senate passes changes

In the past week, the US Senate has passed a bill that will bring an end to the trade in shark fins in the US. On Tuesday, 8 June, the US Senate passed a bill that puts an end to the shark fin trade in the US. The new law is part of a broader
Published: June 11, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 22:44
End of shark fin trade in US – Senate passes changes

In the past week, the US Senate has passed a bill that will bring an end to the trade in shark fins in the US.

On Tuesday, 8 June, the US Senate passed a bill that puts an end to the shark fin trade in the US. The new law is part of a broader legislative package of the US Innovation and Competition Act. The new law now still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives.

Environmentalists who are fighting for the protection of these marine predators celebrate success, but also stress that for many species it may already be too late. All because of the huge number of sharks caught each year to harvest their fins. It is estimated that this number of sharks killed is as high as 73 million!

diving with a shark
An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year Photo: Marcin Pawełczyk
SFSEA

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act – SFSEA bans trade in shark fins and products containing shark fins. The new US law is a clear sign that the problem of dwindling shark populations is finally being recognised. Federal law already prohibits the removal of shark fins in US territorial waters, and 17 states and three US territories have passed laws banning or restricting trade in shark fins.

In other states, however, shark fin soup is still on the menu at many restaurants. In turn, the fins are still sold on grocery shop shelves. Most importantly, many of these fins are imported. What this boils down to is that fishermen obtain them on the high seas, outside the jurisdiction of any country where fishing is unregulated, or from countries where there are no clarified rules or enforcement of shark fishing regulations.

nurse shark Maldives
Sharks are crucial to the functioning of marine ecosystems Photo: Marcin Pawełczyk
Key market

The United States is a major transport hub for the shark fin trade. This is evidenced by last year’s seizure in Miami of 635 kg of sh ark fins from South America. The seized goods were probably headed for Asia. At least 1 000 sharks had to be killed to obtain that amount of fins.

There is no time to waste as sharks are dying off 30% faster than they can reproduce. A recent study found that shark and ray populations in the open oceans have declined by 71% over the past 50 years! In another study of coral reef-dwelling populations in 58 countries, sharks were not found on almost 20% of the reefs surveyed. These are shocking figures when you consider that reefs are vibrant underwater oases. The presence of sharks is crucial to these ecosystems.

Last step

The US Innovation and Competition Act will now go to the House of Representatives, with leadership from both chambers negotiating the form of the final package. The House has shown strong support for SFSEA, both by an overwhelming vote of 310 to 107, and 133 cross-party co-sponsors who have already joined the standalone bill introduced last month.

Let us hope that the matter reaches a successful conclusion, because sharks cannot wait any longer. Their presence and the well-being of individual populations are crucial to the well-being of the entire planet.

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About author

Julia
My love for scuba diving started as a 12-year-old in the Canary Islands, at which time I took my first Open Water Diver course. This love for the blue turned into a huge passion that accompanies me to this day. Although blue is hard to come by in the Baltic, no conditions are terrible for me. In this sport, I find peace, patience, courage, focus, and balance. I have recently started to engage in underwater modeling and I am fulfilled with this.
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