A ban on shark fin sales in the U.S. passed the House of Representatives Thursday, riding on a defense authorization bill, and now goes to the Senate for final passage.
Long sought by ocean environmental groups, who say it will combat global illegal fishing, the measure is opposed by U.S. commercial shark fishermen, who say it unjustly eliminates a well-regulated domestic market.
The fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act passed the House in 350 to 80 vote crossing partisan lines. The annual legislation typically carries a host of add-on measures unrelated to military matters, and the 2023 package includes the shark fin ban as part of provisions against trafficking in wildlife products.
“This bill will finally remove the U.S. from the devastating shark fin trade once and for all,” said Beth Lowell, vice president of the environmental group Oceana’s U.S. organization. “This bill will also help to fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing by giving the U.S. more tools to take action against countries that fail to address these devastating and destructive practices in their fleets.”
The practice of “finning” sharks – cutting off fins and discarding the animals alive – has been prohibited for years in U.S. waters where fishermen are required to land sharks whole. But the availability of dried imported shark fins in the U.S. market is still a driver of the international trade, environmental groups say.
The move in Congress comes after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Panama approved binding resolutions calling for tighter restrictions on trade in requiem and hammerhead shark species. Much of that debate centered on the demand for shark fins in Asia, the primary market.