WILMINGTON — An international ocean conservation group is looking for support to ban the shark fin trade in the U.S.
Oceana, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the oceans, is seeking signatures on a petition to ban trading shark fins in the U.S.
Oceana representative Randy Sturgill of Wilmington circulated the petition July 14, calling for signatures online at act.oceana.org/page/82222/action/1?ea.tracking.id=vanity.
One local marine research institute said shark abundance has been in decline, even in North Carolina’s waters. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City said in its July 2021 edition of The Coastal Tar Heel, its monthly e-newsletter, abundance and shark sizes have dropped 25% to 50% since the 1970s.
“Commercial and recreational fishing have contributed to decreased shark populations,” the institute said. “Sharks have been on Earth over 400 million years; 50 different shark species can be found in North Carolina waters.”
Shark finning is a practice in which sharks are caught commercially and have their fins cut off, after which they are thrown back in the water to die. According to the Oceana, this practice is driven by the market for shark fin soup, which is a luxury item in some cuisines.
“Although shark finning is illegal in (U.S.) waters, fins can still be bought and sold in the United States,” Oceana said, “and we’re importing from countries where there are inadequate protections in place for sharks. A national prohibition would improve enforcement of the current finning ban, reinforce the status of the United States as a leader in shark conservation and bring the world closer to ending the devastating trade in shark fins.”
According to the petition website, each year up to 73 million sharks lose their fins to the shark fin trade. In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a fin ban, but the U.S. Senate “failed to act.”
“Fortunately, we have another chance to ban the sale of shark fins once and for all,” Oceana said.
The Senate has recently passed Senate Bill 1106, known as the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act. A partner bill, H.R. 2811, has also been introduced in the House.
Reporter Mike Shutak contributed to this article.