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house Bill H.R. 737

Does the U.S. Need to Stop the Domestic Shark Fin Trade?

Argument in favor

Shark finning is a barbaric practice and the U.S. needs to do what it can to stop it by making the sale or purchase of shark fins illegal.

Ariana's Opinion
···
03/05/2019
Sharks are already being endangered and slowly becoming extinct; harming them any further puts their entire species in danger. Harmful species or not, animals are just as important as any human being on this plant.
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Argument opposed

If the U.S. tries to stop the shark fin trade by making it illegal to buy or sell fins, the trade will still persist by moving to the black market.

IAmNormaL's Opinion
···
04/06/2019
This is not a federal government problem why should every American be burdened with this issue? Leave this to the local governments ! Not federal governments responsibility
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Water, Oceans, and Wildlife
      Committee on Natural Resources
    IntroducedJanuary 23rd, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 737?

This bill — the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019 — would make it illegal to possess, trade, distribute, sell, or purchase shark fins in the U.S. and also prohibit their import or export. It would also establish penalties for shark finning under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Under current law, shark finning — the practice of cutting off the fins of a shark to sell them as food — is illegal in U.S. waters and has been since 2000, though buying, selling, or possessing shark fins is allowed. After the fins are removed, oftentimes the shark is thrown back into the sea where it will drown, bleed to death, or be eaten by other ocean creatures.

There would be an exemption for people who have a shark fin that was obtained legally under a state, territorial, or federal license as long as the fin is taken from the shark to be:

  • Destroyed or discarded;

  • Retained by the license holder and not sold;

  • Used — but not sold — for subsistence purposes in compliance with state or territorial law;

  • Used solely for display or research purposes by a museum, college, university, or other person granted a permit to conduct scientific research.

Impact

Sharks; people who buy or sell shark fins; and the federal government.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 737

In the 115th Congress, the CBO estimated that this bill wouldn't have a significant effect on net revenues, as decreased revenues from customs duties collected on imported shark fin products would be offset by increased penalty collections resulting from violations of this bill's provisions.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-MP) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to ban the buying and selling of shark fins in the U.S.:

“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 to help end this wasteful and cruel practice is important, but just a small step on the way to giving the oceans the full respect they must have in federal law. Ultimately, all life on Earth depends on the health of the oceans.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) adds

“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. The gruesome shark-finning practices are decimating populations and putting many species on the brink of extinction. This sound bipartisan legislation will promote conservation and responsible fishing practices that are good for the environment and our economy. As the largest economy in the world, how we conduct our commerce has a profound impact on global markets and greatly influences others’ economic behavior. 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.

During the 114th Congress, actor Morgan Freeman joined lawmakers and an advocacy group known as Oceana at a press conference announcing the introduction of this bill's predecessor, and pushed for the legislation’s passage:

“Sharks are being killed for their fins, much like rhinos and elephants have been decimated due to the demand for their horns and tusks. While shark finning is banned in U.S. waters, we continue to buy, sell and trade shark fins throughout the country. By allowing the trade of shark fins within our borders, the U.S. continues to contribute to this global problem.”

Oceana's Campaign Director, Whitney Webber, adds

“Banning the U.S. shark fin trade has overwhelming support from the conservation, business and coastal recreation industries, and is a critical step for shark conservation. The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would improve enforcement of state fin bans and reinforce the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation. This bipartisan legislation is a sensible, non-partisan way for the U.S. to lead in shark conservation. A national fin ban is something that both sides of the aisle can agree is good for our oceans, and good for the tourism jobs and businesses that depend on healthy shark populations... [This bill] will set a new standard for shark conservation.” 

A representative of the Sustainable Shark Alliance, a coalition of shark fishermen and seafood dealers advocating for sustainable U.S. shark fisheries, expressed opposition to this bill in that it'd effectively punish American shark fishermen who abide by the law while doing nothing about shark finning in other countries:

"The bill will, as a practical matter, end domestic commercial shark fishing because, on average, fins account for half the value of the landed catch. Absent that income, fishermen would lose money catching and landing these fish. The ban also runs counter to the main principle behind this nation's fisheries law: to maximize the economic return from sustainable use of our maritime resources. In short, the legislation harms American fishing families and coastal communities merely to send a message about unsustainable and cruel fishing practices abroad."

This bill has 128 bipartisan cosponsors, including 101 Democrats and 27 Republicans, in the current session of Congress. Last Congress, this bill passed through both the Senate and House committees with the support of 262 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, including 177 Democrats and 85 Republicans. It has the support of Oceana, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, Shark Stewards, and the Animal Welfare Institute.


Of Note: Shark finning is a practice wherein fishermen remove sharks' fins, and then discard the sharks overboard to die. According to Oceana, as many 73 million sharks have their fins removed in a given year, and several species that are frequent targets are considered to be vulnerable or endangered populations. Much of the demand for shark fins is driven by the consumption of shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures.

Although shark finning is prohibited in U.S. waters, the U.S. still has a strong market for shark fins, and consumers in most states can buy them. The U.S. is one of the world's top importers of shark fins, as well as a transit point for international shark fin shipments. Thus, the U.S. contributes to shark finning and the dwindling of shark populations.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Flickr user nicwn)

AKA

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019

Official Title

To prohibit the sale of shark fins, and for other purposes.

    Sharks are already being endangered and slowly becoming extinct; harming them any further puts their entire species in danger. Harmful species or not, animals are just as important as any human being on this plant.
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    To maintain healthy oceans, we must protect the ecosystems that drive them, including the predators that are so critical to maintaining balance. The shark fin trade is completely unnecessary and akin to the outmoded ivory trade. Cruel, senseless, and harmful. End this practice today!
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    I am thankful that my representative, Phil Roe of TN-01, has co-sponsored this bill. Sharks play a crucial role in the ecosystem by maintaining the food chain. They serve as indicators for ocean health. We need to protect sharks and other marine life from practices that would cause lasting harm to the ocean (and thus, the systems that depend on its health).
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    To conserve sharks.
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    To start with, sharks are endangered as it is; with some species being highly endangered. Killing those sharks just for soup or something like that, is just hurting the oceans ecosystem. Whether you realize it or not, you might not even know this, sharks ACTUALLY HELP our oceans. The sharks help keep the fish population at a perfect amount, if sharks were to go extinct, the fish population would explode and our oceans would be filled with large and small fishes. If the fish population were to explode, the coral reef would get destroyed as a result. Some fish use the coral reef as a home, as well as some fish even eat it...or at least I'm pretty sure some do........Anyways, sharks shouldn't be killed for their fins, they help our oceans. And besides, some sharks are ACTUALLY PEACEFUL ones. A couple of examples are the Greenland shark, a sleeper shark that is basically inactive and moves slowly; the Whale shark, a large, peaceful and filter eater - meaning they eat krill and plankton - divers swim with and take pictures with this shark when they can; and lastly the Basking shark, another large, filter eater shark.
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    This is not a federal government problem why should every American be burdened with this issue? Leave this to the local governments ! Not federal governments responsibility
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