WASHINGTON, D.C. — April 17, U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) submitted testimony during a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans legislative hearing in support of his bill, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (H.R. 1456).
This bipartisan legislation has gained 237 cosponsors and would make the possession, sale, and purchase of shark fins illegal acts in the United States. Click HERE to watch the video of Representative Royce’s remarks.
Below is Representative Royce’s statement, as prepared for delivery at the hearing:
“Thank you, Chairman Lamborn and Ranking Member Huffman, for agreeing to hold this timely hearing on ocean conservation. I’m very grateful that my bill, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, was included.
Coincidentally, today I was with an old friend of mine, David Marinoff, who was telling me about how he and his wife had recently witnessed sharks washed up on a beach in the Galapagos Islands. These sharks had been finned which resulted in their deaths. I found it both tragic and ironic due to the Galapagos Islands’ history as being a case-study in ecological balance.
Sadly, each year, the fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade, putting multiple species of sharks at risk for extinction. Shark fins, as many of you know, are considered a delicacy in parts of the world. Sold for high prices, they drive a trade that is not only inhumane due to the practice of shark finning, but increasingly detrimental to our oceans due to its size. Sharks play an integral role in our oceans’ ecosystems and if populations continue to decline at the current rate, our oceans, as we know them, will cease to exist.
My bill, which has over 230 bipartisan cosponsors, including a majority of this committee and subcommittee’s members, would make it illegal to buy, sell, or possess shark fins in the United States. To be clear, the bill does not prohibit shark fishing. The proposal builds on previous Congressional action targeting the shark fin trade and mirrors similar state-level bans. Additionally, I’ve conferred with the Congressional Budget Office, and they have told me that the bill will not cost the government.
While protecting wildlife from extinction is, from my perspective, the right thing to do, it also makes sense economically. As apex predators, sharks ensure balance below them in the food chain. Their preying, or lack thereof, on species directly below them in the food chain has a compounding effect on the availability of fish that many people rely on as a food source and that the fishing industry depends on for income. For example, a decrease in the population of tiger sharks can lead to an increase in prey species, such as turtles, monk seals, and reef sharks, which in turn can cause a decline in tuna populations.
Shark survival also contributes to the ever-growing shark eco-tourism industry. My home state, California, is home to 134 dive shops. In Florida, which is home to 185 dive shops–the most in the nation–direct expenditures for shark encounters brought in $221 million and fueled over 3,700 jobs in 2016. This market dwarfs that of the domestic shark fin market, which, in 2016, was only worth $850,000 in exports.
I’m a firm believer in the principle that when the United States leads, other countries follow. We’ve seen this with the ivory trade. After the United States took action to eliminate its own ivory trade, China acquiesced to pressure and shut down its ivory trade at the end of 2017.
I’m pleased to say that we’re starting to see this now with the shark fin trade. Last year, in response to pressure associated with this bill, both Air China and China Southern Air announced that they would no longer allow shark fin cargo. With the strong support for this bill and today’s hearing, we have laid the foundation to move this bill. I can only imagine what impact signing the bill into law will have in the United States and around the world.