New Jersey could soon join the growing ranks of states that have banned the inhumane shark fin trade. A bill banning the sale and trade of shark fins last night passed the Assembly, and is now on its way to the governor’s desk for his signature.

The Assembly vote of 54 to 19 followed a Senate vote of 33 to 6 earlier this session, with Garden State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle leaving no doubt as to how they feel about this gruesome trade where, to procure fins, fishermen slice them off live sharks, then dump the animals back in the water to drown, be eaten alive by other fish or bleed to death. In a recent survey, a majority of New Jersey voters said they would support a prohibition on the sale, possession and trade of shark fins.

Gov. Phil Murphy now has until the end of the current session, on January 13, to sign the bill. Once he does, New Jersey will join 13 states, including all of its coastal neighbors and several U.S. territories that have passed legislation to limit or ban the sale of shark fins.

The United States already bans the act of finning sharks – cutting the fins off live sharks and throwing them overboard – but the law doesn’t prevent the sales of fins once they’re brought onto land, and the country still imports and exports many shark fins, which are primarily used in shark fin soup. There is now a bill in Congress, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, that would ban all U.S. commercial trade in shark fins, and last week, the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly to pass this bill, which was sponsored by Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands, and Michael McCaul, R-Texas. The bill now awaits action in the U.S. Senate, where a companion bill is being sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

In addition to the need for a federal law, we need to stop the sale and trade of fins in individual markets where the activity flourishes by passing new state laws.

Stopping the shark fin trade is crucial, not only because of the devastating cruelty it involves, but also because it is leading to a fast and dangerous decline in shark species. An estimated 73 million sharks are killed globally for their fins each year, and a quarter of all ray and shark species are now threatened with extinction. Some shark populations have been reduced by nearly 90%.

Ending finning globally is a big priority for us, and the bill in New Jersey is the result of several years of advocacy by a broad coalition of more than 25 animal protection groups, including the HSUS, and other environmental and business groups. If enacted into law, it would not negatively affect any law-abiding fishermen who will be able to continue to sell shark meat, save for the fins. Instead, it would specifically target shark fin products to eliminate demand for the practice of live finning and killing sharks for their fins.

We are grateful to the bill’s primary sponsors, Assemblymen Raj Mukherji, Vincent Mazzeo and John Armato, and Sens. Troy Singleton and Kip Bateman, as well as cosponsors Carol Murphy, Andrew Zwicker, Mila Jasey, John McKeon and Clinton Calabrese, for their leadership. We now call on Gov. Murphy to quickly sign it into law. Sharks are dying by the hundreds every day, and the sooner we act, the more good we can do for this keystone species who keep our marine ecosystems in balance, serve as key indicators of ocean health, and make our world a more beautiful and livable place.