Shark Fin Trade Ban Becomes Law
Dr. Guy Harvey, world-renowned artist, marine biologist, conservationist and explorer
At the end of 2022, as part of the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, the U.S. enacted legislation to ban the trade of shark fins. This new law will end a major economic incentive for overfishing these ecologically vital species and also provides the U.S. government with more tools to address other illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing issues. The bipartisan shark fin bill was introduced by Representatives Gregorio Sablan (D-NMI) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
Although shark finning is illegal is many places, the trade of fins, even from legally caught sharks, encourages the barbaric act of finning to continue. The U.S. banning the shark fin trade not only ends a significant economic driver of the industry but it also sends a message worldwide that sharks need to be protected.
This legislation is a long time coming. In 2006, a study conducted by the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) at Nova Southeastern University in Florida quantified, for the first time, the level of fishing mortality to satisfy the shark fin industry. It was estimated that as many as 73 million sharks per year are being harvested to supply the world with fins. Additional research conducted by Florida International University found that two-thirds of fins in the global fin trade come from sharks that are at risk of extinction. The research by the GHRI brought the shark fin issue into focus for the world and provided the foundation needed to address this problem. This highlights the need for high-level research and long-term commitments to make substantial ecological policy changes.
Although the cartilage from shark fins is tasteless and offers no nutritional value, shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures. Similar to how rhino and elephant populations were decimated by the ivory trade, the shark fin trade is threatening the continued survival of many shark species.
The shark fin trade remains largely unmonitored and unregulated, with U.S. ports acting as a main thoroughfare for fins from sharks caught in Latin American and Caribbean countries that have inadequate protections in place. Not only are there fins from finned sharks entering the U.S., but the United States is also providing an economic incentive for other countries to fish for sharks in ways that are illegal in U.S. waters. This new legislation will remove the U.S. from this process altogether.
I cannot imagine an ocean without sharks. This legislation will ensure that future generations will not face that reality. At the Guy Harvey Foundation, where our mission is to better understand and conserve the ocean environment, we are thankful for our partners, Oceana, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Shark Allies and countless other organizations and individuals that worked tirelessly for this necessary legislation, in addition to the U.S. Congressmen and Congresswomen that continuously pushed through several administrations to make this a reality.
Healthy oceans need sharks.