Shark finning is a horrendous trade that must be stopped. But what exactly is shark finning? Shark finning is the act of removing fins (the most monetarily valuable part of a shark) and returning the finless, often still living, shark back to the water. The shark either suffocates or bleeds to death at the bottom of the ocean. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, the animals are usually conscious through much of this ordeal. Not only is this act morally wrong, it is also ecologically wrong.
As you may already know, sharks are apex predators, and apex predators are vital to maintaining balance in the ecosystem. A large shark population is a great indicator of a healthy marine ecosystem. Not only are sharks (obviously) affected by shark finning, the decrease in the shark population throws the rest of the ecosystem off balance.
While many efforts have been made to protect sharks, more still needs to be done. Despite Congress passing the 2010 Shark Conservation Act (which requires that all sharks caught in United States waters be brought to shore with their fins still intact), shark fins are still being harvested illegally. Regardless of this act, every year it is estimated that as many as 73 million sharks are killed every year because of shark finning. This number is astounding; sharks need more protection. The shark finning trade needs to be banned on a federal level. Currently, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019 has been passed through the house, and has moved on to the Senate. Contact your senators and urge them to pass this bill.
By now you’re probably wondering what we can do in the meantime to protect sharks. First and foremost, don’t consume shark fins, and boycott the restaurants in your area that serve shark fins. Yes, shark fins can be caught in a “sustainable” way (by harvesting the whole shark), but it’s hard to guarantee that the fins were “ethically” sourced. Since, right now, there is no federal ban on the sale of shark fins (just regulations that generally aren’t strictly followed or enforced), the most impactful thing you can do is working with your state and/or local governments. Fortunately, though, the following states have banned the possession and sale of shark fins: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington. It is time for other state and local jurisdictions to follow suit (and the federal government, of course)!
We need to protect sharks! Shark finning is both ethically and environmentally wrong. Don’t forget to contact your senators and urge them to pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019. It’s time to shut down the shark finning trade.