JAN 06, 2023 1:00 PM PST

Shark fin trade banned in the U.S.

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Shark fins have been a popular animal product traded around the world. In certain Asian countries, for example, shark fins are an ingredient in a high-end soup. By some estimates, over 70 million sharks each year are affected by the shark fin trade.

However, how these fins are harvested have long raised questions. Some shark fins are harvested through legal means. But in many cases, shark fins are not harvested legally, nor in a way that many people consider to be ethically or ecologically conscionable: harvesters will often remove fins from live sharks and return the sharks to the water without them, often leaving them to die.

Now, the United States is taking legislative action, with policymakers approving a bill (included in the nation’s annual defense spending package) which bans the shark fin trade in the United States. While the practice of collecting shark fins has been illegal in the U.S for some time, the U.S. is home to much of the shark fin trade that happens, only enabling the practice. The bill was signed into law by President Biden. This action comes in the wake of other organizations and groups that are seeking to outlaw the trade across the globe, as well as overwhelming public sentiment in favor of banning the practice.

This landmark legislation offers important hope against a widespread ecological threat. Not only is the practice ethically horrific, but the shark fin trade has even been linked to an increase in extinction and endangerment threats for various shark species. For example, a study published in Current Biology suggests that the shark fin trade is playing a role in the endangerment of nearly one third of shark species.  

The measure also marks an important commitment the U.S. is making to ecological preservation and diversity, an important step after it failed to join prior conservation agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity. However, more efforts to improve enforcement of the ban are now needed.

Sources: Mongabay; Oceana; The Guardian

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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