Kilili re-introduces shark fin trade ban

Jan 23, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan introduced legislation today to ban buying and selling of shark fins throughout the United States. Stripping fins from sharks and throwing the animals back in the water to drown or bleed to death has contributed to the rapid decline of sharks worldwide. Closing the commercial market for shark fins in the U.S. should help end this wasteful and destructive practice. The legislation has bipartisan support and the backing of major environmental groups.

Three years ago, Sablan authored similar legislation that he modeled after a Marianas law making it illegal to possess, sell, or distribute shark fins in the islands. Twelve states and two other territories have also banned shark finning or the sale of shark fins. In the last Congress, Sablan joined with Chairman Ed Royce (R-California) to lead the effort and gathered 262 cosponsors.

This time around Rep. Michael T. McCaul has partnered with Sablan. “I am proud to help introduce the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, which builds upon existing federal law and state initiatives to ban the sale, purchase, or possession of shark fins in the United States,” McCaul said. The Texas Congressman is the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“This sound, bipartisan legislation will promote conservation and responsible fishing practices that are good for the environment and our economy. It is long since time we leverage our economic might against shark-finning and work to counter the larger issue of animal poaching and the illicit trafficking of animal parts.

“I want to thank Congressman Sablan for his effort on this legislation and for working in a bipartisan fashion on its introduction.”

Indigenous cultures respect sharks

Worldwide, an estimated 73 million sharks are being caught each year for their fins. Elimination of this apex predator has a negative effect on the rest of the ecosystem. By preying on the old, sick, and slow, sharks keep other fish populations healthy and check the spread of disease.

“Destroying millions of sharks simply for their fins is a wasteful practice that our indigenous Chamorro and Rafaluwasch cultures in the Marianas would never have allowed,” Congressman Sablan said. “We would have used as much of the shark as possible for food, tools, and other purposes.” Sablan’s new bill does allow sharks to be caught for noncommercial, subsistence purposes or with a government permit for scientific research.

“The strong, bipartisan support for this legislation sends a clear message that we have to pay more attention to protecting the Earth’s oceans and the life within those oceans. Banning the sale of shark fins is important, but just a small step towards giving the oceans the full respect they must have in federal law.

“Ultimately, all life on Earth depends on the health of the oceans, something our Chamorro and Refaluwasch cultures continue to understand deeply.”

“Sharks worth more alive than in a bowl of soup”

The Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2019 is supported by Oceana, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, Animal Wellness Action, and the Animal Welfare Institute.

“Oceana applauds Congressmen Sablan and McCaul for their leadership in introducing this legislation that represents an opportunity to reinforce the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation,” said Whitney Webber, Campaign Director for Oceana. Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation.

“Shark populations are critically important for healthy ocean ecosystems, which support thousands of livelihoods and generate millions of dollars in coastal recreation and tourism. Now it is time for national action.”

“Sharks are worth more alive than in a bowl of soup,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “And although the U.S. bans the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning in U.S. waters, our shark fin economy spurs finning elsewhere.

“I applaud Representatives Sablan and McCaul for introducing the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act, which enables America to expand its leadership in shark protection.”

Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute, said the group looks forward to helping pass the bill in this Congress.

Congressman Sablan is a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee which will have jurisdiction over the legislation. Forty-nine Members of Congress signed on as original cosponsors, when the bill was introduced today.