August 06, 2013It is now illegal to possess, sell, or distribute a shark fin in New York state after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (A.1769b/S.1711b) long supported by animal rights groups.
"There's no greater environmental challenge than trying to maintain the ecological balance in the oceans," said Assemblyman Alan Maisel, D-Brooklyn, sponsor of the legislation in the Assembly. "As sharks decline, we are seeing huge problems in maintaining this balance. The shark fin bill will go a long way to protecting sharks that are so important."
"Finning" — the act of removing a shark's fin or fins without retaining the rest of the shark's carcass — was already illegal in New York. Finners catch the shark, remove its fins and then release it back into the ocean. Finned sharks, on top of blood loss, could have difficulty or the inability to swim or pass water across its gills, which can lead to suffocation. Now the movement of fins within the state without the corresponding carcass is also illegal.
"Every year, 73 million sharks are killed to supply the growing global demand for their fins," Cuomo said. "Not only is the process inhumane, but it also affects the natural balance of the oceanic ecosystem."
The prohibition does not apply to both spiny and smooth dogfish, due to its important commercial value in England. According to the Governor's Office, the fish is exported to England and the fins are then sent to Asian countries, where they are used in a traditional dish called shark fin soup.
Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, the legislation's Senate sponsor, said, "Shark finning has decimated the shark population worldwide. The new law will have a major impact on this cruel industry by removing New York, which is currently a major East Coast importer, from the shark fin trade."
New York is not the first state to establish a prohibition on shark fins. Similar legislation has been passed by California, Illinois, Oregon and Washington.
The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2014.
The governor also signed a bill to extend the Department of Environmental Conservation's authority to manage sharks in the state until Dec. 31 2015.
Assemblyman Matthew Titone, D-Staten Island, said, "Although much-maligned in popular culture, sharks are the keystone species. Sharks help ensure a stable ecosystem, preventing the spread of disease by scavenging carcasses and preying on weak fish. Enacting this bill allows the DEC the necessary authority to help maintain healthy and balanced oceans."
The new law excludes those who catch a shark lawfully and have a Recreational Marine Fishing Registration or the proper permits for "bona fide" scientific research or educational purposes.