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Washington State Protects Sharks by Banning Sale & Trade of Fins

WildAid commends the leadership of Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire for signing SB 5688, further protecting sharks and ocean ecosystems. Sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island, the bill prohibits the sale, trade or distribution of shark fins or derivative products. Previously passed by unanimous vote by the Washington Senate, the House voted 95 to 1 in favor of it.

Up to 73 million sharks per year are slaughtered primarily for their fins to make shark fin soup, a vastly popular Asian delicacy. Captured at sea and hauled on deck, the sharks are often still alive while their fins are sliced off. Because shark meat is not considered as valuable as shark fin, the maimed animals are tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death. The process is called shark finning, a wasteful and cruel practice.

This is bad news for the world's oceans.

Sharks are the top predator in the ocean and are vital to its ecosystem. The rapid reduction of sharks is disrupting the ocean's equilibrium, according to Wild Aid Executive Director Peter Knights. “These are ecosystems that have evolved over millions and millions of years,” said Knights. “As soon as you start to take out an important part of it, it's like a brick wall, you take out bricks [and] eventually it's going to collapse.”

One of the most effective ways to protect sharks by reducing the numbers killed is to eliminate the market for fins by prohibiting their sale. A similar ban was enacted in Hawaii, Guam, and in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. Proposed legislation is being considered in Oregon and California.