Shark Fin Trade Banned In Massachusetts

Many shark die a slow and painful death when they are thrown back into the water without their fins

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Thursday a bill that bans the sale and possession of shark fins, making it the ninth state in the U.S. to criminalize the trade.

The bill was approved in the Massachusetts state house earlier this month, the Boston Globe reports. The practice of removing a shark’s fins, or “finning,” is prohibited by federal and state laws, however a market for them still exists. A bowl of shark fin soup can sell for over $100 in the United States, feeding demand for the brutal practice, which has persisted due to an “economic loophole” in state law.

According to Laura Hagen, deputy director of advocacy for MSPCA-Angel, sharks are often still alive when their fins are removed. Poachers dispose of the shark after removing its fins by throwing it back in the water, since the rest of the meat in the animal is worth just a fraction of the price that its fins command. Sharks must constantly move forward, passing water over their gills to breathe. Without their fins, they die a slow and painful death from both trauma and lack of oxygen.

Governor Patrick said, “With the passing of this law, Massachusetts builds upon its long history of animal protection and environmental stewardship,” according to Boston.com.

After September 1, anyone caught selling shark fins or shark fin soup will be subject to a fine between $500 and $1,000, as well as up to 60 days in jail. There are some exceptions to the law; scientists who engage in shark research are not subject to the ban, and the law does not apply to some locally fished species of shark, such as skate, smoothhounds, and spiny dogfish. Rather, the measure is aimed at the international shark fin trade, in which the vast majority of the fins are imported from Hong Kong.

Bills were introduced by both State Senator Jason Lewis and Representative David Nangle to ban the practice last summer, while 9-year-old Sean Lesniak, of Lowell, Massachusetts, spoke to the House Judiciary Committee, voicing his support for the measure.

Sharks are major business for Massachusetts this year, particularly in Cape Cod. As The Inquisitr previously reported, the seaside town is experiencing a tourism boom in the wake of a higher than usual number of great white shark sightings this year. The resurgence of the white shark species is widely attributed to protective conservation measures enacted over the last several decades, of which Massachusetts’ shark fin ban is only the latest.

[Image via Boston Globe]