On Friday, July 26, the state of New York became the eighth U.S. state to ban the sale of shark fins in an effort to protect the world's sharks. Last May, a bill to ban shark fin trade in Texas died in the Senate, but due to increasing awareness about the cruelty of shark finning as well as the expense of making the Chinese delicacy shark fin soup, many Texas restaurants are taking shark fin soup off their menus.
Shark fin soup, often served at Chinese weddings and banquets as a symbol of wealth and prosperity, is controversial due to the often inhumane way in which shark fins are obtained. Because the fins are the most useful part of the shark, hunters will catch a shark, cut off all its fins, then release it back into the ocean still alive, where, unable to move, it will die a slow, painful death from blood loss, suffocation or starvation. Releasing the sharks frees up space on the fishing vessels for more fins.
Shark finning is one reason for the rapid decline in shark populations. Sharks are slow to mature and do not reproduce as often or have as many young as other sea creatures, so killing sharks can have a large impact on the population. Other people are less concerned with the environmental impact of shark finning and take greater issue with the morality of cutting off an animal's limbs and leaving it to die.
The U.S. protects sharks from finning with the Shark Conservation Act (introduced by John Kerry in 2009), which prohibits any vessels from carrying more shark fins than carcasses. Additionally, all sharks must be brought to port with their fins still attached. Several states have outlawed the sale or trade of shark fins entirely, as New York did last week, but in Texas, shark fin soup is still legal, for now. And it's available right here in Houston.More »