The fin of a shark breaks the surface near the 'Miracla' beach, 20 August 2007, in Tarragona city. Biologists of the Barcelona Aquarium have un successfully tried to capture the animal, a Mediterranean grey nurse shark, which is considered as harmless for humans, usually feeding on fish. AFP PHOTO/LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
A shark fin ban will go into effect in Massachusetts on Thursday, closing an economic loophole that has led to a massive decline in shark populations.
Governor Deval Patrick will be joined by a coalition of ocean protection and animal welfare organizations at the New England Aquarium to sign the ban into law, making it illegal to possess or sell shark fins in the Bay State.
"With the passing of this law Massachusetts builds upon its long history of animal protection and environmental stewardship," said Patrick. "I congratulate the passionate animal welfare and ocean conservation leaders who worked together to ensure the conservation of sharks and our oceans for generations to come."
The bill, also known as, “An act relative to ocean ecology and shark protection,” passed the Massachusetts House and Senate with bipartisan support last week, making Massachusetts the ninth state along with Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands to restrict market access to the shark fin trade.
Shark “finning” refers to the slicing off of a shark’s fins, often while the shark is still alive.
The animal is then thrown back into the ocean where, unable to swim, the shark dies a slow and painful death. Advocates say the demand for shark fins, used to make shark fin soup, a bowl of which can cost upwards of $100, drives the unsustainable exploitation of sharks worldwide.
The practice of shark finning is prohibited by both federal and state law, but the market for fins continues to promote the practice in foreign and international waters.
A broad coalition of ocean conservation and animal welfare advocates, including the MSPCA-Angell, New England Aquarium, The Humane Society of the United States, Fin Free Massachusetts and others, worked tirelessly to establish the ban, under the stewardship of lead sponsor Senator Jason Lewis, and with support from Representative David Nangle and nine-year-old shark advocate Sean Lesniak of Lowell.
“Today marks an historic milestone in the fight to preserve the health of our oceans,” said Lewis. “I commend my colleagues at the State House for voting to protect sharks and take a stand against animal cruelty. I extend my gratitude to the animal welfare organizations and ocean conservation groups who collaborated on this effort.”
Nigella Hillgarth, President & CEO of the New England Aquarium, lauded state lawmakers for their leadership.
Massachusetts’ shark protection efforts build upon the momentum of the Obama administration’s recent commitment to combating black market fishing and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the U.S. marketplace, according to Hillgarth.