Blacktip shark on water surface

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Blacktip shark on water surface

Photo by: SEAN GLADWELL

SEAN GLADWELL

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act Passed the US Senate

By: Vicky Vásquez

On World Ocean’s Day 2021, CHOW (Capitol Hill Ocean Week) took a CHOMP out of the threats that sharks are still enduring. The CHOW bite came in the form of the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (SFSEA- S. 1106), which recently passed the senate and is now returning to the House for approval.

June 20, 2021

Like the breaching great white sharks from SHARK WEEK’s Air Jaws, America’s protection of sharks is getting higher and higher! Every year, June 8 is World Ocean’s Day, which is actually part of World Ocean’s Week, which is when government officials over in Washington, DC hold Capitol Hill Ocean Week, aka CHOW! On World Ocean’s Day 2021, CHOW took a CHOMP out of the threats that sharks are still enduring. The CHOW bite came in the form of the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (SFSEA- S. 1106), which recently passed the senate and is now returning to the House for approval.

CHINA - MARCH 06:  Sharks fins on sale in shop in Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, China  (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)

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Sharks fins on sale in shop in Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, China

Photo by: Tim Graham

Tim Graham

It may be of surprise to learn that shark finning was banned in US waters over twenty years ago. Unfortunately for the sharks, that policy had loopholes. The importance of the SFSEA bill is that shark fisheries must bring back their catches completely intact. This is crucial because species identification of shark fins is harder than Michael Phelps beating a great white shark in a swim race. In fact, it is so challenging that scientists have taken on the dilemma with a “CSI” approach using genetic analysis. Although this research is vital on a global scale, SFSEA chomps up that problem for the US by banning all sale and trade of shark fins and related products. The teeth of this bill don’t stop there! The SFSEA bill also steps up enforcement so that fishermen breaking these rules have to pay big sand dollars with fines comparable to the value they would have gained in fin sales.

When you hear that much good news for sharks, there’s always a ‘but’ and so there are a couple things to keep in mind with the recent news about SFSEA. In the great words of Schoolhouse Rock, “I’m just a bill, yes, I’m only a bill”. In other words, the real celebration comes when this bill becomes a law and the enforcement begins. Another issue is that the SFSEA bill has an exception for spiny dogfish (yup, that’s a shark). Spiny dogfish may not be as charismatic as another Shark Week regular, the shortfin mako sharks. Still, spiny dogfish are a shark species listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List Assessments, with global populations on the decline. With that said, the comparison to short fin makos was purposeful, since Atlantic short-fin makos have their own serious conservation issues. As a result, it’s make-or-break time for Atlantic Shortfin Makos.

The takeaway here is that sharks need heroes to champion their protection. And just like any good superhero movie, the heroes for sharks have combined forces and created a league- appropriately called the Shark League! Although SFSEA is a great step in the right direction, the work is not done. The Shark League needs more people to help people just like you, the reader! Check out this link from the Shark League on how you too can be a superhero for sharks. The League needs you.

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