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March 25, 2013

Maryland General Assembly Moves Forward with Shark Fin Trade Ban

House of Delegates Passes House Bill 1148 to ban the sale of shark fins

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International applaud the Maryland House of Delegates for passing legislation to ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins, ending Maryland's contribution to the collapse of shark populations worldwide. If adopted by the state Senate, Maryland would join California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington – and all three U.S. Pacific territories of Guam,  American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands – in passing laws to provide critical protection to sharks and to preserve the health of the world's ocean ecosystems.

House Bill 1148, introduced by Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery County, passed by a margin of 115-17 and now moves to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. Similar legislation, Senate Bill 592, has been introduced by Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County.

Del. Luedtke said: “I am pleased that the majority of the House of Delegates agrees this legislation is critical for the health of the oceans and of the Bay. I'm hopeful that the Maryland Senate will act on this bill as well, and ensure that Maryland will do its part to help end the devastating over-fishing of apex shark species worldwide."

Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The HSUS said: “Although Maryland fishermen are not engaged in ‘finning’ of sharks, the market in Maryland for shark fins fuels the unsustainable trade and the inhumane and wasteful practice in waters with lax shark protection laws. House Bill 1148 makes a strong statement that Maryland will no longer participate in this market and we urge the state Senate to act swiftly to approve this measure.”

Recent studies indicate that nearly 100 million sharks – or 7percent of their total populations – are being killed each year, with tens of millions caught specifically for their fins. Many of these are obtained by cutting off the fins and dumping the body of the shark – often still alive – back into the ocean, where the shark dies of blood loss, suffocation or predation by other animals. The fins are used for shark fin soup, a popular luxury dish often served at Chinese weddings and other celebratory occasions. Consumer demand for shark fins contribute to the decimation of shark populations worldwide. 

As a result of these fishing pressures, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has estimated that nearly one-third of all open-ocean shark species are currently threatened with extinction. The massive global overfishing of sharks is largely driven by the market for their fins.

Animals at the top of the food chain, such as sharks, have few natural predators, so they are slow to mature and have very few young. As a result, sharks are extremely sensitive to fishing pressures and recover slowly from overfishing. As sharks play a vital role in the oceans, their depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems. 

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson: 301-721-6463; ksanderson@humanesociety.org

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