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March 27, 2012

Maryland Senate Passes Bill to Ban Shark Fin Trade

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International urge quick passage in the House of Delegates

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International applaud the Maryland state Senate for passing landmark legislation that will end Maryland’s contribution to the cruel, wasteful and unsustainable trade in shark fin. If enacted, Maryland will join four Pacific states – California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington – and the U.S. territories of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands in similar actions to provide critical protection to sharks and preserve the health of the world’s ocean ecosystems by banning the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins.

Introduced by Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, S.B. 465 passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 42 to 4. Similar legislation, H.B. 393, was introduced in the House of Delegates by Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery. It awaits action by the House Environmental Matters Committee before the Maryland General Assembly adjourns on April 9.

“With this vote, Maryland is one step closer to being the first East Coast state to join the international movement to protect sharks by shutting down the market for shark fins,” said Tami Santelli, The HSUS’ Maryland senior state director. “The unsustainable demand for shark fins has had a devastating impact on shark populations worldwide, and this bill makes clear that Maryland will no longer contribute to the cruelty. We encourage the House of Delegates to act quickly to pass this bill.”

“Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year for their fins, causing many species to be threatened with extinction,” said Sen. Frosh. “Sharks are a critical predator species in the ocean and maintain the health of the ecosystem. Here in Maryland, the decline in shark populations can be linked to an increase in cownose rays, which are inhibiting oyster restoration in the bay. We must do all we can to protect this important species.”

The broad and diverse coalition supporting S.B. 465 included animal protection, Asian Pacific American, environmental, and conservation leaders, as well as the National Aquarium and the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.

“Finning” is an abhorrent practice that involves slicing off the fins of a shark and discarding the animal at sea to drown or bleed to death. Unsustainable fishing methods like this have led to declines by as much as 90 percent in some shark populations during recent decades.

Facts:

  • The fins from up to 73 million sharks are used to supply the global shark fin trade each year.
  • Conservation enforcement and finning bans in the U.S. alone are not enough to conserve sharks. A ban on shark fin products, such as S.B. 465 proposes, is the most effective way to eliminate the demand for shark fins and to eradicate shark finning around the world.  
  • Shark fin is often the most expensive item on restaurant menus and typically served simply as a symbol of status. It has no nutritional value and is the main driver of the multi-billion dollar international shark fin trade. The dish is highly controversial because of the manner in which shark fins are harvested and the precarious status of many shark populations.  
  • In January 2011, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act to strengthen the federal law against shark finning at sea and require that sharks be landed with their fins still attached.


Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org

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