A Texas congressman is a co-author on a bill that would help root out one of the worst forms of animal cruelty.
Congressman Michael T. McCaul (R-TX), the Republican Leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the former Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has partnered with Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-MP) to introduce the Shark Fins Sales Elimination Act.
Shark fins are used for one thing: Chinese "shark fin soup." But the act of shark finning — cutting off the fin of a shark, then dumping the animal back into the sea to die — is illegal in the United States.
Most of the demand for shark fins is in Asia, but the United States is an active participant in the trade, with fins still being imported and exported on American soil.
According to a release, government records show that in 2017 the United States imported shark products worth more than $1.6 million, with the majority of that value coming from fins.
The United States is also an end market and a transit point for shark fins obtained in countries where finning is unregulated or where finning laws are not enforced. This legislation would ban the buying and selling of shark fins.
In a statement, Congressman McCaul says that he wants to the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act to build on existing federal law and state initiatives to ban the sale, purchase, or possession of shark fins.
"The gruesome shark-finning practices are decimating populations and putting many species on the brink of extinction," he says. "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," he says. "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."
Shark finning is considered to be an extremely cruel practice. Sharks without fins will drown, bleed to death, or be eaten alive by other fish.
Fins from as many as 73 million sharks are traded throughout the world every year. Some shark populations around the world have declined by as much as 90 percent in recent decades, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that up to one-quarter of shark and ray species are at risk of extinction.
The bills are expected to pass through the legislature in 2019.