Shark Fin Sale Bill becomes law, May 15, 2013
On May 15, 2013 Governor Markell signed the shark fin bill, HS1 for HB 41 w/ HA 1 which forbids the possession, sale, offer for sale, and distribution of shark fins in Delaware. This bill removes Delaware from the global market for shark fins, protecting threatened and endangered shark species worldwide.
We are grateful for the collaboration and support of Delaware's conservation and animal welfare organiztions, especially the Humane Society of the United States, the Delaware Nature Society, and Surfrider, for their dedication to the protection of sharks. We are also grateful for the support of Delaware's commercial fishermen for this bill.
- ‘Shark finning’ is when the fins are cut off of a shark, often while the animal is still alive, and then the shark is thrown back into the sea. Unable to swim, sharks sink to the bottom of the ocean where they die from starvation, suffocation, predation, or by bleeding to death. This act is not only cruel; the shark finning industry is a major contributor to the collapse of shark populations worldwide.
- Current federal law and DE regulations (7. Del. Admin Code 3541) prohibits shark finning. However, fins from other countries that do not prohibit shark finning can still be sold in Delaware. Since Delaware is a potential marketplace for fins of unknown origin, the state is contributing to this wasteful practice.
- This bill would prohibit the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in Delaware. The bill is intended to criminalize the sale or trade of shark fins in DE that are sourced from an entity engaged in a practice that is illegal in DE.
- This bill would provide a comprehensive legal framework that removes DE as a potential market for the highly destructive global shark fin trade.
- Exemptions allow DE commercial fishermen to possess and distribute shark fins and allow DE recreational fishermen to possess shark fins for personal use. Shark fin possession for bona fide scientific research purposes is also allowed.
- In the United States, the coastal States have been the leading the fight to stop the trade for shark fins from foreign suppliers and for US based suppliers to sell into the global market.
- With passage of this law, Delaware would join the West Coast states, Illinois, and the territories of Guam and Marina Islands in eliminating the marketplace for shark fins. Hawaii was the first state to initiate this effort because of their proximity to Asia and therefore, their large market for shark fins.
Addressing Concerns of DE Commercial Fishing Industry
- Multiple meetings with commercial fishing representatives and DNREC resulted in revised language that provides exemptions that allow current commercial shark fishing practices to continue.
- Some West Coast states enacted similar exemptions as compromises with the commercial fishing industry in those states. Enactment of those laws has been successful.
- All Delaware commercial fishing practices can continue as they do today; sharks can still be caught, landed, processed, and distributed for sale in other states. All recreational practices can also continue as they do today; sharks can still be caught and parts may be used for personal use. What the new law changes is a clarification that detached shark fins could not be sold in Delaware, eliminating the ability of retail outlets to sell shark fins.
Photo: Bryan Scott Photography, under creative commons license.