U.S. lawmakers have voted to pass the Shark Conservation Act, a bill closing a loophole that had allowed the controversial shark fin trade to continue in U.S. waters in the Pacific. The bill requires boats to land sharks with their fins attached, and prevents other boats from transporting fins not attached to sharks’ bodies
The bill now heads to President Obama’s desk for a signature, which it is expected to receive.
The practice of “finning” – in which sharks fins are removed, while their bodies are dumped overboard – is already banned in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
The U.S. Senate passed the measure on Monday December 20 and the House passed it this morning.
The conservation group Oceana wrote in its blog that landing sharks with their fins still attached allows for better enforcement of the shark finning laws, and makes it easier to keep tabs on how many sharks are taken from the ocean.
In other news reports from around the Internet today, some are saying that the U.S. can do little to protect the world’s sharks, even with this new bill, and that the only true protection for sharks must come from China.
Shark fins are a billion-dollar industry. The practice of shark finning has expanded worldwide due to rising demand for shark’s fin soup in Asia. Every year, tens of millions of sharks die after being finned and dumped back to sea.
The rising demand for shark fin soup, a delicacy in Chinese restaurants, has made shark fins increasingly valuable. Fins can fetch the equivalent of up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, far more than shark meat. Finning has a big impact on shark populations because sharks are slow to mature and reproduce. If harmed, their populations take a long time to recover. According to the Pew Environmental Group, 30% of the world’s shark species are now endangered. The decline of one of the ocean’s top predators could have a ripple effect through marine ecosystems.