Senator John Kerry today won approval in the Senate of a bill that toughens regulations banning the removal of fins from sharks caught in US waters.
The bill, sponsored by the Massachusetts Democrat, closes a key loophole that allowed fishermen to remove the fin as long as it was done on land.
Shark fins are considered a delicacy in Far East cuisine and are sold for hundreds of dollars a pound. Overhunting of the sharks for their fins has decimated their population, with about 78 million sharks killed a year, according to the Pew Environment Group. About 30 percent of the world's species is close to the threat of extinction, said the group, which lauded Kerry's bill.
The United States is considered a major exporter of sharks.
"Some populations, such as scalloped hammerheads and dusky sharks along the Eastern US coast, have plummeted by as much as 80 percent since the 1970s,'' said Matt Rand, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign, in a written statement.
Often fishermen will remove the fins, then return the shark to the ocean for a slow death.
“Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans,” Kerry said. “Finally we’ve come through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life.”
The House passed a similar bill last year but will need to take it up again before the lame duck session ends because of changes made in the Senate version.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.