February 18, 2015
Texas Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Ban Trade of Shark Fins
A Texas lawmaker introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale, trade, purchase and transportation of shark fins in the state. H.B 1579 introduced by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-District 38), would ensure that Texas no longer participates in the trade in shark fins and would halt the state’s contribution to the global decline of shark species. The Humane Society of the United States and Oceana applauded Rep. Lucio for introducing the bill and now urge the legislature to move the bill forward and take a stand against the shark fin trade.
If passed, Texas would become the 10th state to crack down on the shark fin trade. Similar legislation has been enacted in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington, as well as in the three U.S. Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Marianna Islands.
"Sharks are the top predators in our waters and serve a vital purpose within that ecosystem," said Rep. Lucio. "Shark-finning is an inhumane act banned on the Federal level, but we have to make sure Texas is not encouraging that illegal act by restricting what can be done with those fins."
Shark finning involves cutting off the fins of sharks, often when the shark is still alive. Sharks are then thrown back into the ocean, only to drown, starve or die a slow death. The fins are then sold to markets in China and Hong Kong, as well as in the United States, where they are used in shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy. Some species of shark are on the brink of extinction due to the exploitative shark fin industry.
Shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters. However, fins that are imported and sold in Texas can come from sharks harvested in unsustainable foreign fisheries or finned in the open ocean. The majority of the global shark fin trade goes through China and Hong Kong, which receive their supply of fins from at least 80 countries, most of which have lax and ineffective shark finning bans. In recent years, after other states have banned trade of the product, Texas has emerged as a trade hub for shark fins.
Katie Jarl, Texas state director for The HSUS, said: “With many coastal states already having eliminated the market for shark fins within their borders, it’s time for Texas to end its involvement in the highly destructive global shark fin trade. We are grateful for Rep. Lucio’s leadership on this important issue.”
“Sharks are worth more swimming in our oceans than floating in our soup. Healthy marine ecosystems depend on healthy shark populations, but the global shark fin trade has decimated many species,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s vice president for U.S. Oceans. “By allowing trade and possession, Texas is enabling this grisly and unsustainable practice to continue. Texas can be a leader on shark conservation by passing this bill which would diminish the role of the United States in this brutal practice.”
Facts about shark finning:
- Since 2010, the shark fin trade in Texas has grown by 240 percent, partly due to bans passed in other states which have likely re-directed fins to Texas.
- Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year simply to supply the wasteful demand for shark fin soup. Shark populations cannot sustain current slaughter rates.
- Sharks are apex predators whose survival affects all other marine species and our oceans’ ecosystems.
- Unlike other fish species, sharks produce few pups, and thus many species are endangered and/or threatened due to the fin trade.
- In 2011, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act, which closed critical loopholes to ban shark finning by requiring boats to land sharks with their fins still attached.
Unfortunately, this does not prevent processed fins, including imported fins, from being traded in and out of the U.S., which is why state laws prohibiting sales are so crucial.