On Friday July 26th Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that will ban shark fin possession and sale in the state of New York. This is a huge victory in the fight against shark finning. New York is not only the biggest market for shark fin soup on the East Coast, but the biggest Eastern port for shark fin products to enter the US as well. Shark finning is illegal in US waters and has been banned in nine other US states and territories, including California. While Hong Kong is undoubtedly the biggest consumer of shark fin products, this law will be essential in reducing consumption, importation, and exportation of them in the US which will set a precedent on protecting sharks.
While we are celebrating New York’s decision there is still a dark cloud on the horizon. Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed an implementation ruling for the federal 2010 Shark Conservation Act that includes dangerous language. The language put forward would ultimately undermine all states efforts to protect sharks that have gone above and beyond the standard federal anti-finning laws. The official comment period is closed, we are now waiting for the final ruling, and it’s unclear if they will remove this harmful language from their decision.
As for now, we can agree that New York has proven to be a leader in the battle to save sharks from extinction and thereby protect our ocean ecosystems. We are now legally shark-fin free! This law is scheduled to take effect in July 2014 to allow shop owners to get rid of the merchandise they have currently and we can only hope that by the time this date rolls around the law still has teeth.