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Maryland General Assembly Passes Legislation Banning Shark Fin Trade


The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Humane Society International, National Aquarium, National Wildlife Federation and Oceana applaud the Maryland General Assembly for banning the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins, ending Maryland's contribution to the collapse of shark populations worldwide. 

The Maryland House of Delegates passed HB 1148, introduced by Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery County, by a vote of 119-15 in March and the Senate passed similar legislation – SB 592 introduced by Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County – by a margin of 41-6 on April 4. Both bills passed with bi-partisan support, with final votes in the opposite chambers occurring before the General Assembly adjourned at midnight on Monday. The legislation now moves to Gov. O’Malley for his signature.

Sen. Frosh said: “I am extremely pleased that the legislature enacted this protection for sharks. Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year for their fins, and many species are threatened with extinction. Sharks are critical apex predators and are essential to the health of the ecosystem. Here in Maryland, declining shark populations can be linked to an increase in cownose rays, which in turn undermines oyster restoration. This new law will be a positive step in our efforts both to fix a global problem and to restore the Chesapeake Bay.”

Del. Luedtke said: “I am ecstatic that Maryland will become the first state on the east coast to ban shark fin, pending Governor O’Malley’s signature. My hope is that the remainder of the eastern seaboard states will also take action to end the unsustainable and inhumane practice of shark finning worldwide."

If adopted, Maryland will become the first state on the East Coast and the sixth state in the nation to pass a law providing critical protection to sharks, and, therefore, supporting the health of the world’s ocean ecosystem. Other states that have laws in place are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington – as well as all three U.S. Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands.

Tami Santelli, Maryland senior state director for The HSUS said: “Fins sold in Maryland can come from sharks that were caught anywhere in the world, and there is simply no way to guarantee that these fins were not obtained through the inhumane and wasteful practice of finning. We are so pleased that the General Assembly has taken a strong stance to protect sharks and to ensure that Maryland will no longer provide a market incentive for finning and the overfishing of sharks.”

John Racanelli, CEO for National Aquarium said: "Sharks may not be warm and fuzzy, but they serve a critical role in ocean ecosystems, and they need our help. National Aquarium is proud that, by passing this measure, Maryland's General Assembly has taken the lead on this internationally critical conservation issue. After all, sharks need friends too”

As a result of fishing pressures, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has estimated that nearly one-third of all open-ocean shark species are threatened with extinction. The massive global overfishing of sharks is largely driven by the market for their fins. Consumer demand for shark fins contribute to the decimation of shark populations worldwide.

  • A recent study indicates that nearly 100 million sharks – or seven percent of their total populations – are being killed each year, with tens of millions caught specifically for their fins. 
  • Many shark fins are obtained by cutting off the fins and dumping the body of the shark – often still alive – back into the ocean, where the shark dies of blood loss, suffocation or predation by other animals. 
  • Animals at the top of the food chain, such as sharks, have few natural predators, so they are slow to mature and have very few young. As a result, sharks are extremely sensitive to fishing pressures and recover slowly from overfishing. As sharks play a vital role in the oceans, their depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems.