$1M In Illegal Shark Fins Seized in Miami

Photo: CNN

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January seized 1,400 pounds of shark fins worth nearly $1M that were hidden in 18 boxes in Miami Airport.  Federal officials believe the shipment originated in South America and was likely headed to Asia, where shark fins are in great demand for use in soup and traditional medicine, but they are still investigating.

Why This Matters:  Shark finning is banned in the U.S., but it is not illegal to buy and sell their fins here or even to sell the soup in restaurants in some states (it is banned in others).  Congress has before it a proposal to ban their sale here, but the fishing industry has pushed back because they are concerned that it will lead to a total ban in shark fishing in the U.S.  The heinous practice of shark finning has led to massive declines in shark populations around the world — 73 million sharks are caught each year mostly for their fins and nearly 60% of shark species are threatened with extinction.   The loophole in the law permitting the sale of fins in the U.S. ought to be closed because otherwise there will continue to be black market sales here.

The U.S. Fin Sale Loophole

“The United States plays a key role as an international transit hub for shark fins,” Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, told CBS News.  CNN reported that according to the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, the average price for shark fins are ($99 USD – 591/kg) in Hong Kong, and ($28 USD – 419/kg) in China.  And at Chinese restaurants, a shark fin lunch can cost around $80 Hong Kong dollars ($11 to $12 USD), while upscale places charge up to $1,200 Hong Kong dollars ($160 USD).  The shark fin trade has doubled in Hong Kong since 1960, making it the “world’s biggest shark trading hub.” Most often, shark fin smugglers cut the fins from live animals before dumping the bodies back into the water where the sharks then suffocate or bleed to death — they throw the biggest part back because hauling back and selling the whole animal is not efficient since the fin is the expensive part.  Sharks caught in U.S. waters are required to be “landed” or brought into port with their fins attached.  According to Oceana, the proposed legislation would ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins in the U.S.

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