Oregon Lawmakers Unanimously Vote to Protect Shark Populations

Oceana Commends Action to Prevent Shark Fin Trade

The Oregon State Senate voted 30-0 to ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins within the state.

The bill (HB 2838) previously passed the State House of Representatives by a unanimous vote. The bill’s passage moves the U.S. West Coast closer to a full ban on the trade of shark fins, thereby helping to protect global populations of at-risk shark species currently targeted in unsustainable and unregulated fisheries worldwide. Oceana commends Oregon Representative Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) for his extraordinary leadership to protect a species that has been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years.

“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 and Pacific Counsel for Oceana. “The unanimous passage of this bill once again demonstrates that support for healthy oceans is a non-partisan issue,” added Sheard.

Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup. In this wasteful and cruel practice, a shark’s fins are sliced off while at sea and the remainder of the animal is thrown back into the water to die. Without fins, sharks bleed to death, drown, or are eaten by other species. In recent decades some shark populations have declined by as much as 99%. Removing sharks from ocean ecosystems can destabilize the ocean food web and even lead to declines in populations of other species, including commercially-caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food web.

“The leadership shown in Oregon today is a testament to ‘Think globally, act locally,’” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s Senior Director for the Pacific. “By banning the possession and sale of shark fins in Oregon, the legislature is actually helping to protect sharks around the world. If the market for fins dries up, so will the profits of those who fish for sharks with no limits.”

While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the issue of the shark fin trade. Therefore, fins are being imported to the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place. The Oregon bill will go back to the House of Representatives this week for a concurrence vote over slightly different language than was previously passed by the House. Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington state signed similar legislation into law on May 12, 2011 and a bill in the California legislature passed the Assembly last week and is awaiting scheduling in the Senate.

To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.
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