US gets tough on shark fins

Dec 20, 2010
Fishermen transporting a load of harvested shark fins. The US Senate on Monday toughened laws against shark finning, hoping to save the ancient fish which experts fear is on the brink of extinction due to growing demand in Chinese restaurants.

The US Senate on Monday toughened laws against shark finning, hoping to save the ancient fish which experts fear is on the brink of extinction due to growing demand in Chinese restaurants.

The removal of sharks' fins -- a delicacy in Chinese cuisine -- was already illegal in the . The new rules close a key loophole that permitted trade in the Pacific so long as sharks were not finned onboard the vessel.

The legislation cruised through the House of Representatives in early 2009 but had languished in the Senate, which approved the measure without objection on one of the last days of its session.

"Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans," said Senator John Kerry, who championed the bill.

"Finally we've come through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life," the Democrat from Massachusetts said.

The bill does not ban imported shark fin, which is readily available in many upscale Chinese restaurants in the United States.

But conservationists welcomed the bill, saying it would curb a burgeoning but largely undocumented US trade in .

"This legislation will help address not only an unspeakably cruel practice of removing fins from live animals and then releasing them to suffer a slow death," said Nancy Perry, vice president for government affairs at The Humane Society of the United States.

"It will also help address on the macro level the rapid decline of shark populations," she said.

Environmental groups estimate that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year around the world for fins, leading to declines of up to 90 percent of some species of sharks -- which have swum the oceans since the age of the dinosaurs.

Despite campaigns from activists, demand for shark fins is seen as growing as China becomes increasingly prosperous.

Matt Rand, director of the shark conservation campaign at the Pew Environmental Group, said he recently heard of shark fins selling in California for an unprecedented 800 dollars a pound, or about 360 dollars a kilogram.

"The United States is a major shark exporter," Rand said. "I think this legislation sends a big signal that the United States is concerned about the decline of shark populations, not just in its own waters but in international waters as well."

Sharks are caught almost exclusively for fins, with little meat in the rest of the fish. While the law does not ban trade in fins, all shark fins entering the United States must have an accompanying carcass.

Explore further: Call for alternative identification methods for endangered species

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

As sharks dwindle, new laws enacted

May 28, 2007

Shark fisheries in Mexico and throughout the world are dealing with proposed rules to curb shark hunting in the interest of preserving these predators.

Ocean's fiercest predators now vulnerable to extinction

Feb 17, 2008

The numbers of many large shark species have declined by more than half due to increased demand for shark fins and meat, recreational shark fisheries, as well as tuna and swordfish fisheries, where millions of sharks are ...

Sharks threatened by Asian consumers, says group

Mar 16, 2010

(AP) -- Surging demand for shark fin soup among Asia's booming middle classes is driving many species of these big fish to the brink of extinction, a marine conservation group said Tuesday.

Protection for 2 shark species fails at UN meeting

Mar 23, 2010

(AP) -- Asian nations on Tuesday blocked U.S.-backed proposals to protect the heavily fished hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks on concerns that regulating the booming trade in fins could hurt poor coastal ...

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

5 hours ago

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

15 hours ago

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...