The House of Delegates has passed HB 1148 – Maryland's proposed ban on the possession, sale and trade of shark fins! If adopted by the state Senate, Maryland would join California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington and all three U.S. Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands in passing laws to provide critical protection to sharks and to preserve the health of the world's ocean ecosystems.
Recent studies indicate that close to 100 million sharks are killed every year – a crippling statistic for the long-term survival of these incredible creatures!
Last month, National Aquarium’s CEO John Racanelli testified before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in favor of Maryland’s proposed ban on the possession, sale and trade of shark fins. John and others spoke passionately about the need to save our sharks and how these bills will end Maryland’s involvement in the unsustainable and inhumane market for shark fins.
Among those voicing their support for this legislation was fourth-grader Keegan Taylor. Keegan, donning an anti-shark finning t-shirt, displayed her great love of sharks and eloquently urged Maryland’s legislators to pass the bill.
Aquarium CEO John Racanelli and Keegan Taylor
When asked how she became so passionate about protecting sharks, Keegan said, “I first became passionate about sharks when I was 4 years old and watched Shark Week, which I look forward to watching every year. I then got lots of books about sharks and all of the Jaws movies and some shark documentaries. I learned that the author of Jaws worked really hard to help people understand that sharks are not enemies of people since the movie made some people scared. I love sharks and have posters all over my room and have written stories about them.”
Keegan’s Top Seven Reasons Why We Must Ban the Possession or Distribution of Shark Fins:
- It is cruel and inhumane to fin sharks. Shark finners cut off the shark's fin and then throw the shark back in the water to die a painful death. It would be like cutting off your arms and legs and then throwing you in the middle of the street.
- It is depleting the shark population, placing many species on the endangered list. If the shark population is depleted – or worse, eliminated – it will disturb the entire ecosystem of the ocean. This will impact all food sources and have a negative impact on humans and many other species. For instance, depleted blacktip and tiger shark populations along the East Coast of the U.S. led to decreased shellfish populations, which led to decreased water quality since shellfish filter water. At this rate, the oceanic ecosystem that has evolved over millions and millions of years would collapse.
- It is basic supply and demand. If there is no demand for shark fins because owning or distributing them is illegal, then there will be no demand and no more shark finning.
- Shark fins are not even healthy for you! They contain high levels of mercury and add no flavor or consistency to food. The main reason behind finning sharks is for consumer consumption, and a recent study conducted at the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank found that consuming shark fins may put consumers at risk. The study, published in the journal Marine Drugs, found that shark fins from Florida waters have a high concentration of a neurotoxin (β-Methylamino-L-alanine) that has been linked to Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- It’s a wasteful practice. Only the fin is saved while the rest of the shark is thrown back into the ocean. Shark meat is not popular because of the high ammonia content.
- President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act, banning shark finning in U.S. waters, but only five states have banned the distribution and possession of shark fins so far.
- The European Union, which is one of the largest exporters of shark fins to Asia, banned finning in 2003, but in a loophole, companies with freezer vessels applied for "special fishing permits" that allowed them to continue if they landed the fins separately from the bodies. The issuing of these permits became standard practice, making a mockery of the law. This loophole was recently closed.
Keegan will soon be visiting National Aquarium to go behind the scenes and meet our sharks! We’ll be sure to share a recap of her visit with everyone!