Cutting off Markets, Not Fins

By on March 24, 2015 with 13 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Shark finning, as is customarily done, requires that a fishermen haul a shark from the ocean, slice its fin off, and then throw the rest of the shark – often still alive – back into the ocean. This leaves the shark not only with gaping, mortal wounds, but also with no ability to swim. The creature is doomed, and the death a lingering one.

It is estimated that fishermen kill between 26 and 73 million sharks every year for their fins, which are the central ingredient in shark fin soup. This staggeringly large toll has been amassed, for the most part, in regions of the world where shark finning is unregulated and the trade in fins largely unrestricted. In sum, it’s been a race to the bottom to kill as many sharks as possible, mainly to procure a tasteless ingredient in an appetizer.

In recent years, The HSUS and Humane Society International, along with a number of other groups, have made great progress against the shark fin trade, mainly by passing a series of state, national, and international bans on the practice of killing sharks for the purpose of selling their fins. In this month’s Yale Environment 360, the conservation writer Ted Williams, one of the best in the business, reports that there is also good news from China. There, he says, demand for the fins has fallen dramatically following a compelling public awareness campaign led by the former NBA star Yao Ming. We’ve been working with the Jane Goodall Institute and other partner groups in China to draw awareness to the trade to supplement Yao Ming’s efforts.

California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington, and all three Pacific territories have already enacted HSUS-backed laws to restrict the sale and possession of fins. All these measures had support from a range of stakeholders, including chefs, fishing communities, marine ecologists, animal welfare and ocean conservation organizations.

And finning is banned in U.S. waters, too, under federal law. But, without state prohibitions,  it’s next to impossible to ensure that fins traded in the U.S. do not come from finned sharks or endangered shark species. That’s why The HSUS is continuing to work in state legislatures to close markets for shark fins by banning their sale, trade, and possession.

This year, The HSUS is working for passage of bills in four additional states, in order to close markets for shark fins. The New Jersey Senate has passed legislation, and action in the Assembly awaits. The Texas bill is headed to the House floor after being passed out of committee. And Vermont and Rhode Island are considering bills in those states.

Oscar-winning director of The Cove, Louis Psihoyos, is partnering with us to help promote our state legislative efforts through his new documentary, “Racing Extinction.” I saw an advance screening of the movie and it is, like Psihoyos’s prior movie “The Cove,” vivid and powerful. The movie, to be released through various channels this year, documents the appalling cruelty inherent in the fin trade. With dozens of species of sharks endangered as a consequence of the fin trade, there is a cascade effect throughout these ecosystems and lasting damage to a wide range of species.

Shark finning is a gory, wasteful, and reckless practice. Our ongoing state efforts to cut off markets for shark fins will tamp down the U.S.’s role in the trade. And globally, we may be reaching a tipping point in turning around the problem. It’s time to step on the gas to get there and finish off this despicable trade in every dark corner where it persists.


Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to This Post

  1. March 25, 2015 | | March 25, 2015
  1. Scott L. says:

    “. . . requires that a fishermen haul a shark from the ocean, slice its fin off . . . .”

    Even worse: fins not fin. They slice off all of its fins, leaving just a living, immobilized torso.

    Thanks for helping to end this atrocity.

  2. Marion J Marchese says:

    When will these idiots realize they are really killing the world?

  3. David Bernazani says:

    Yes, it’s time to end this cruel practice once and for all. And if you can’t wait for Racing Extinction to come out, another very good documentary is “Sharkwater” by Rob Stewart, an excellent film about the amazing and beautiful sharks and our call to save them.
    More info here:

  4. Amy Jamieson says:

    Stop the killing

  5. donna luiz says:

    does anyone know anything about the fishermen, who fish from the local beaches (I see it here in Alameda, CA) where they fish for bat rays, cut off their wings and then cut scallop shapes with a sharp, painful instrument and then leave them to die on the beach…Chinatown in Oakland buys them as some sort of scallop? if yo know anything about this or have seen it let me know…the local authorities say it is not illegal….well it is damned illegal to intentionally kill an animal and that is what invariably comes of them…slow awful death…..I want to get photos for PETA but want someone to come with me…..any thoughts

  6. BarbG says:

    The shark may go the way of the African elephant if the slaughter of both isn’t brought to a halt. Africa without elephants and the seas without sharks.

  7. romana cvetko petrovič says:

    Katastrofa od človeštva kaj si dovoli.
    Takoj je potrebno ustavit ta grozljiva dejanja

  8. Timothy Verret says:

    I have to admit this reality ddn’t me between the eyes like most of animal welfare laws until I read what the proposed bill to end the shark fin trade in Texas listed as the fact that these sharks are captured, have their fins cut off, and then are thrown back into the sea to swim with no fins and eventually die. This is so inhumane and this bill that comes before the House soon is one I have developed much passion for. Thanks, HSUS and Wayne Pacelle, for stepping up and fighting this cause! Thanks!

  9. Carl S. says:

    This is all quite disturbing and disgusting…left to just die? how inhumane is that? What will it ever take for the almighty dollar to ever NOT take over where common sense should prevail…some people have no decency at all and/or are so ignorant, they cannot see past a single day…

    • Shari says:

      The ‘almighty dollar’ is destroying our eco system, and therefore, us eventually. Wolves are being wiped out because the elk hunters want no competition; bears killed for Eastern bear bile medicine which is quackery; rhino horns sold to horny men–again, it doesn’t work, but it brings in the money. And for decades, if not centuries, sharks doomed to die for shark fin soup–and it doesn’t even do anything for the soup’s taste.
      When are people going to grow up? When everything is extinct?
      Oh the tears then by the same people destroying our planet.

  10. Eric says:

    I will never understand why some humans feel the need to let animals be tortured. I donate to the HSUS specifically to help get laws passed to stop this sick practice along with others.

  11. Susan Alvis says:

    First the oceans die we are next ! Sharks are a huge part of the food chain how heartbreaking the way we treat creatures for mans pleasure 🙁

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.