What It Was
The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Interior, Energy, and Environment held a hearing, “Examining the Regulation of Shark Finning in the United States.”
Why It Matters
There are nearly 500 species of sharks, and these top predators play a key role in maintaining ecosystem balance, which allows for thriving fisheries, robust habitats, and a healthy ocean. In turn, a healthy ocean is critical to life on this planet – from supplying oxygen and food to its role in international commerce.
There was bipartisan and witness agreement on the need to put an end to shark finning, which is when fishers remove a shark’s fins while at sea, which ultimately leads to the animal’s death. The fin is considered a delicacy by some, which has driven sales and illegal activity. Despite bans, Ms. Lora Snyder (Campaign Director, Oceana) reported that 73 million animals are killed for their fins each year.
Under the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-557) and the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-348), fins cannot be imported alone, U.S. vessels cannot partake of the practice in domestic or international waters, and international ships cannot fin in U.S. waters. However, import and illegal removal is still occurring, and witnesses testified that strong first-offense penalties and additional legislation are needed.
Dr. Alistair D.M. Dove (Vice President of Research and Conservation, Georgia Aquarium) reported that the global market is declining; China has decreased shark fin demand by 80 percent since 2014, which he mainly attributed to the government’s reduction in activities such as serving shark fin soup at business functions.
Ranking Member Stacey Plaskett (USVI-At Large) wanted to know how sharks are impacted by a changing climate and what she and her colleagues need to do as legislators. Dr. Dove and Ms. Snyder explained how temperature affects a shark’s metabolism and its ability to smell and sense predators and prey. They attested to the need for Congress to support basic research through federal funding to better understand the impacts of changing environments.
“Sharks are a necessary component to a healthy ocean, yet millions of sharks are traded annually for their fins, leaving certain species increasingly vulnerable, if not endangered. Without sharks, the ocean’s ecosystems would be unbalanced…It is my hope that this hearing today will allow us to pinpoint solutions that will protect sharks and will put an end to the inhumane practice of shark finning” – Chairman Blake Farenthold (TX -27)
“It’s essential that we effectively regulate shark fisheries and restore those species that are already depleted because healthy shark populations are needed if we want the oceans to continue to provide us with new medicines, food, and the very air we breathe.” – Dr. Alistair D.M. Dove (Vice President of Research and Conservation, Georgia Aquarium)
“The United States has stated that shark finning is abhorrent and against the law, yet we still import fins from countries that are actively finning, thereby creating economic incentives for the act to continue.” – Ms. Lora Snyder (Campaign Director, Oceana)
This hearing was intended for information gathering and determining where there were gaps in regulations and enforcement challenges of U.S. shark finning bans.
Find Out More
- Lora Snyder (Campaign Director, Oceana)
- Brandi Reeder (Assistant Commander, Fisheries Law Administrator Law Enforcement Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
- Alistair D.M. Dove (Vice President of Research and Conservation, Georgia Aquarium)
Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership
- July’s Congressional Wrap Up
- Harmful Algal Blooms, Shark Fins, And The U.S. Coast Guard
- House Water, Power And Oceans Hearing On FY 2017 Budget Request Gets Heated
Want to read more stories like this one? This ran in COL’s weekly newsletter, Ocean News Weekly: Week of November 6, 2017 – Number 389. Read this newsletter in full here, and sign up to receive it in your inbox here.