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By Jessica Pink
Editor's note: Shark Week 2018 has kicked off! Before you dive in, take a look at three shark stories from the past week that you should know about. For even more content, check out six of Human Nature's most popular shark stories, including our exploration of "demon whale biters."
Paul Hilton / Greenpeace
By Jackie Dragon
Sharks are an iconic victim of the global crisis facing our oceans today. Every year, more sharks and rays appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species and it is estimated that one in four shark species are now threatened. Out of control tuna fisheries are one of the biggest culprits, where both men and sharks are exploited and abused to sustain short-term profits for big corporations.
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On June 23, Oceana, along with four members of congress, introduced the Shark Fin Elimination Act of 2016 (S.3095/H.R.5584), beginning the call to action. The bill would ban the sale of shark fins in America. The act of shark finning—cutting a shark's fins off and discarding its body at sea where it could drown, bleed to death or be eaten alive—is already illegal in U.S. waters.
On Feb. 1, Delegate Eric Luedtke (D-District 14) and Sen. Brian Frosh (D-District 16) introduced bills (HB 393/ SB 465) in Maryland that, if enacted, would ban the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins throughout the state. In recent months, similar bills were introduced in Florida, Illinois and Virginia
Oceana applauds Delegate Luedtke and Sen. Frosh for their leadership to help reduce the market for shark fins and urges the Maryland Legislature to enact these bills into law.
“We can no longer ignore that the shark fin trade is wiping out shark populations and putting our ocean ecosystems at risk," said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “If Maryland residents want healthy oceans, they should support this bill."
While shark finning, the process of removing a shark's fins and throwing the carcass overboard at sea, is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the issue of the shark fin trade. Therefore, shark fins can be imported into the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place.
Over the last two years, similar bans have been enacted in Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, California, Washington and Oregon.
“This bill is a no brainer," said Lowell. “We hope Maryland's efforts will create a domino effect among other East Coast states to protect sharks. By reducing the market for shark fins, we can reduce the incentive to kills sharks solely for their fins."
Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup. In recent decades, some shark populations have declined by as much as 99 percent.
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