On 15th December 2022, the US Congress approved a ban on shark fin trade as part of an annual military defence bill. Before the Senate passed this bill, 14 states and three US territories had already banned the sale and possession of shark fins, but now the ban will be national.
The new law specifically states that “Except as provided in para 2 graph (3), no person shall possess, acquire, receive, 3 transport, offer for sale, sell, or purchase a shark fin 4 or a product containing a shark fin.” The exceptions are if the shark fin was separated after the first point of landing in a manner consistent with a license or permit and is destroyed or disposed of immediately upon separation from the carcass; or used for non-commercial subsistence purposes following Federal, State, or territorial law; or used solely for display or research purposes by a museum, college, or university under a Federal, State, or territorial permit to conduct non-commercial scientific research.
It is estimated that fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global market every year. The fishing industry often cut off the fins from sharks and throws the bodies back into the water while the sharks are still alive, which often will lead to an agonising death later. Shark fins are mainly used in soups, popular in China, Hong Kong, and other places across East Asia.
Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute, said the following: “This is a monumental and long-awaited win for shark species and marine ecosystems across the globe. These remarkable apex predators have existed for hundreds of millions of years, yet the global demand for shark fins has contributed to the decimation of shark populations in just a few decades.”
A study by Dulvy et al. (2021) found that more than one-third of sharks, rays and chimaeras are now threatened with extinction, making them the second-most threatened vertebrate group.