The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International applaud enforcement action
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently seized 2,000 pounds of illegal shark fins from a San Francisco merchant. That merchant is a part of an association whose members sold and distributed shark fins to restaurants and grocery stores and who had sued the State of California challenging the constitutionality of the state’s ban on the sale and trade of shark fins. In the wake of this major bust, the association has voluntarily dismissed its legal challenge.
Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The HSUS said, “California’s shark fin ban is critical to ending the cruel practice of shark finning, and to protecting sharks and ocean ecosystems for future generations. But the law only helps sharks if it is strongly enforced. This important bust by California’s ‘thin green line’ sends a strong message that breaking California’s animal protection laws has consequences.”
The Asian American Rights Committee of California’s voluntary dismissal of its lawsuit comes less than a week after the National Marine Fisheries Service announced its support for the California shark fin law. The federal agency concluded that several state laws prohibiting the sale of shark fins are not preempted by federal law.
A second lawsuit, filed by a separate group of shark fin merchants, is still pending in federal court in the Northern District of California. A hearing on motions to dismiss that lawsuit is scheduled for March 19, 2014 in San Francisco.
The Humane Society of the United States, together with Humane Society International, Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation and Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance, intervened in the litigation to defend the California law. These organizations are represented by the law firm Schiff Hardin LLP and lawyers with The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation group.
In January 2011, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act to strengthen the federal law against shark finning in U.S. waters and require that sharks be landed with their fins still attached.
State laws prohibiting the sale, trade and possession of shark fins have been passed in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington, and three Pacific territories: American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.
Experts estimate that between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed every year to supply the global demand for shark fins, and that such unsustainable numbers are contributing to declines in shark populations worldwide.
The federal Shark Conservation Act alone is not enough to halt the worldwide trend of unsustainable shark finning. A ban on shark fin products, such as the ones adopted by individual states, is an effective way to eliminate the demand for shark fins in local markets, and to help eradicate shark finning around the world.