By Patrick Mustain This weekend, the state of Texas took an important step forward for global shark conservation by becoming the tenth state to ban the trade of shark fins. Shark finning, a brutal and wasteful practice, accounts for 73 million shark deaths every year. Although shark fin soup is a popular "delicacy," there is nothing delicate about the way it is made. Shark finners slice off the pectoral and dorsal fins often while the shark is still alive, and throw it back overboard to drown or bleed to death. The senselessness of these assaults becomes more salient considering the fact that shark fins offer no flavor or nutritional value. Sharks are, in effect, being murdered for a culinary gimmick.
Although shark finning is banned in US waters, it continues in other countries where fishing is more poorly regulated. Also, even though finning itself is illegal, many US states have no rules against the trade of shark fins, allowing them to be imported and exported within the country. During the past two years, however, there has been a growing national movement to end the shark fin trade. Nine other states have banned the trade of shark fins, significantly cutting into the US fin demand. Unfortunately, these bans caused much of the traffic to shift to Texas, so Governor Abbot's signature on H.B. 1579 this Saturday was a huge win for sharks. But like any sensible environmental protection, the benefit extends far beyond the protection of any single group of animals. Sharks play a vital role in the health of our oceans.