Photo: Hyper Acidic Other Asian via Flickr/CC BY
It's a loophole that should have been closed long ago -- but since it wasn't, shark finning is still legal off the West Coast and in the Pacific. Shark finning, as you're probably aware, is the practice of capturing a shark, slicing off its dorsal fin, and casting it back into the water, where it slowly bleeds to death. The rise in popularity of shark fin soup in China has fueled a boom in the practice. But a bill in the Senate seeks to put an end to it, at least in US waters. Here's the Washington Post:
The Senate passed a landmark shark conservation bill Monday that would close loopholes that had allowed the lucrative shark fin trade to continue operations off the West Coast. The measure would require all vessels to land sharks with fins attached and would prevent nonfishing vessels from transporting fins without their carcasses.Finning is already illegal in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf of Mexico, but loopholes have allowed the practice to continue in the Pacific. Last year, 1.2 million pounds of shark were caught in the Pacific, according to NOAA.
"Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans," said Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the bill's author, in a statement. "Finally we've come through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life."
To become a law this year, the bill would need to be passed by the House, which could act as soon as Tuesday. The lower chamber has passed similar legislation written by Del. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), and backers said they hope the House will act in the scant time it has left.
Sharks are severely threatened around the world as a result of finning -- there are estimated to be as few as 3,500 Great Whites left in the wild, and many other species are declining rapidly as well. And measures like these, which are necessary and should be applauded, won't seriously curtail the practice until demand issues are addressed at the root. The black market for shark fins, after all, remains a major, destructive force.