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Oregon joins fight against shark finning

August 4, 2011 |  4:30 pm

Oregon is joining a national effort to end the shark fin trade.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed bill HB 2838 Thursday, banning the sale, trade and possession of shark fins. The fins are often cut from a live shark, which is then tossed back in the ocean to bleed to death, drown or be attacked by other predators.

Oregon’s bill joins similar legislation in Hawaii and Washington. A California measure passed the Assembly in June, but has yet to clear the Senate. President Obama signed federal legislation tightening a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters earlier this year.

“With the global trade in shark fins pushing sharks toward extinction, it will take strong actions such as this to prevent us from making irreversible changes to our ocean ecosystems,” said Whit Sheard, senior advisor for Oceana, a maritime conservation organization. “The bipartisan support for this bill once again demonstrates that support for healthy oceans is a non-partisan issue.”

Finning is illegal in the waters of the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and several other countries, although it is still common in international waters. It is illegal for U.S. fishing boats to dock with shark fins on board unless they are attached to the carcass, but fins are imported to the U.S. from countries with less stringent protections.

Shark fin soup, which can cost as much as $80 a serving in restaurants, has been a Chinese delicacy for hundreds of years and often is served at weddings and banquets. It is a status symbol, considered to have medicinal properties, and its defenders see its consumption as a fundamental cultural right.

Scientists say the fin trade has contributed to the catastrophic declines of shark populations worldwide, threatening to disrupt ocean ecosystems and encouraging the proliferation of other predators, which diminishes stocks of fish for human consumption.


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Photo: A fisherman cuts a hammerhead shark in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. Thousands of young sharks in danger of extinction are regularly caught by fishing boats along the Ecuadoran coast to be sold mainly to Asian markets. Credit: Patricio Realpe / Associated Press