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Washington Bans Shark Fins

The state of Washington recently voted 95 to 1 in favour of SB 5688 which prohibits the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins. Washington State joins Hawaii, which last year became the first government to enact such a ban, in the fight to protect sharks.

shark finThe harvesting of shark fins is a deadly and unsustainable practice which causes a heavy toll on the ocean ecosystem. It is estimated that up to 73 million sharks per year are slaughtered, primarily for their fins. But like many other top predators, sharks are slow to reproduce and as a result, are highly susceptible to overfishing. Shark populations have been threatened for much of the modern 20th and 21st century. The decline of shark populations is a concern because as a top predator, sharks help to regulate the populations of prey species below it, contributing to a healthy ocean food chain. Any disruption of this ecosystem could one day prove to be disastrous.

Shark fins command a high price in many markets as a delicacy in dishes such as shark fin soup. Demand for the fins is high, particularly in Asian cultures, and fins can command $300 per pound, or more. Since the meat is worth much less money, fishermen will often slice the fins from the shark and throw the rest of the animal overboard. Helpless and unable to swim, the shark eventually drowns or bleeds to death.

The leadership of Washington governor Christine Gregoire was lauded by WildAid, an organization dedicated to ending illegal wildlife trade, for pushing through the shark fin legislation. Washington’s bill is a welcome accompaniment to the Shark Conservation Act, signed earlier this year by U.S. President Barack Obama. Similar bills are being considered by California and Oregon.

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