The sight of a curved fin gliding through the water is known for inspiring fear in beachgoers, capitalized on most notably in the movie blockbuster “Jaws.” However, most people don’t realize they shouldn’t be scared of sharks, but instead be scared for sharks. Though sharks have survived mass extinctions and environmental changes to swim in our waters for more than 400 million years, their resilience is now being put to the test because of the worldwide practice of shark finning. Shark populations may have the chance to thrive again, however, thanks to recent action on state bills, to ban the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins. New York could be next in line, after the state Senate’s passage of legislation banning the shark fin trade at the end of April and the state Assembly unanimously following suit earlier this month. Now this crucial bill could become law if Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs it, setting an important precedent as New York is the largest importer of shark fins on the East Coast.
Shark finning occurs when sharks are captured, their fins sliced off and harvested while they are still alive in most occasions, and their carcasses dumped back overboard while at sea. Each year, millions of sharks are victims of this wasteful practice, leading to intense overexploitation that has caused a dramatic decline in shark populations around the world. Shark fins are used as a delicacy in the Asian cuisine shark fin soup, which can cost up to $100 per bowl. This overexploitation is additionally problematic because as apex predators, sharks play a critical role in maintaining balanced and healthy oceans.
Oceana urges Governor Cuomo to sign this important bill, as it would be a huge step forward for shark protection worldwide. New York would also become the third East Coast state, and eighth state overall, to join in the growing national movement towards shark conservation. There has been a push over the past few years to halt the trade of shark fins, and while the act of finning is banned in U.S. waters, there are no federal laws regulating the trade of these fins once they enter our markets. Additionally, the cruel practice still occurs in waters around the world, which means fins are often imported into the United States from other countries with few to no shark protections in place.
Similar legislation almost passed in New York last year, but they are now getting a second chance to do the right thing and become a leader in shark protection. Now that the bill has passed through the state Senate and Assembly, it waits on Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing. As the largest market for shark fins on the East Coast and in the United States, this bill tells suppliers that the market is decreasing for this delicacy, and that the well-being of a shark in its natural environment is far more valuable than the price of its fin in a bowl of soup.
Amanda Keledjian is a marine scientist at Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. To learn more please visit https://oceana.org/.
Shark fin soup photo via Shutterstock