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Massachusetts Bans Shark Fin Trade

A finned shark waits for death
  Paul Munzinger
A finned shark waits for death.
Massachusetts has become the ninth state to make it illegal to trade or possess shark fins.

With the passing of this law Massachusetts builds upon its long history of animal protection and environmental stewardship

—Governor Deval Patrick

The new law was signed into effect on July 24th, by Governor Deval Patrick.

State and federal governments already ban the removal of the fins, so this law will mostly affect companies that import and or sell them. Unfortunately, it exempts locally caught species such as skate, smooth hound sharks, and spiny dog fish.

Shark fin soup is a lucrative commodity that can fetch more than $100 per bowl. The massacre of sharks for the Asian party dish has only been in wide-spread practice since the 1980s, yet it has already resulted in a worldwide loss of sharks that has been compared with the slaughter of the buffalo on the North American plains two centuries ago. More than ninety percent of sharks have already been lost, and a high fraction of the large, accessible species are threatened with extinction.

Shark finners catch the sharks in nets or on long lines, haul them on board, slash off their fins and tails, and then toss the animal back into the sea, where it slowly suffocates as it sinks. The drastic depletion of the top oceanic predator from all oceans is already being reflected in serious ecological upheavals.

Violators of the new Massachusetts law could face fines of $1,000, up to 60 days in prison and the loss of their fishing licenses, according to Patrick’s office.

But, since local sharks are exempt, the fines are low compared with the profits realized by the market, which is largely in criminal hands.