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Gusciora, Conaway & Chiaravalloti Bill to Ban Shark Finning Approved by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Herb Conaway and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to ban the harvest and sale of shark fins in New Jersey was released by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on Thursday.

A recent increase in the demand for shark fin soup has called attention to shark finning. The practice entails severing a live shark’s fins from its body, thus rendering it immobile, and returning it to the water. The practice results in a painful death for the shark.

“Shark finning is an inhumane practice that leads to the animal’s slow, excruciating death,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Aside from being downright cruel, shark finning is threatening the very existence of certain species, which ultimately poses a threat to the balance of all marine life.”

The bill (A-3945) would prohibit the possession, sale, offering for sale, trade or distribution of shark fins. The legislation includes an exemption for lawfully-obtained shark fins used for scientific research or educational purposes. The bill allows commercial and recreational fishermen to possess shark fins from sharks if obtained lawfully in a manner consistent with the fisherman’s license or permit.

A person is authorized, until January 1, 2018, to possess, sell, trade, or distribute, or offer for sale any shark fin that is in that person’s possession on or before the date of enactment of this bill into law.

“The shark fin trade leads to the death of millions of sharks annually and has a devastating impact on the ocean’s ecosystem,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This legislation is about ensuring that New Jersey has no participation in a market, the output of which promotes the destruction of the world’s ecosystem.”

Under the bill, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection would ensure compliance with the legislation. Penalties would be levied as follows:

  • First offense: Minimum penalty of $5,000; maximum penalty of $15,000
  • Second offense: Minimum penalty of $15,000; maximum penalty of $35,000

  • Third or subsequent offense: Minimum penalty of $35,000; maximum penalty of $55,000.

Each day during which a violation continues would constitute an additional, separate and distinct offense. All monies collected through fines would fund wildlife conservation.

“The bottom line is that the shark fin trade is unsustainable,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Sharks play an invaluable role in maintaining marine ecosystems, and New Jersey must take a stand against finning in order to preserve them.”

Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year as a result of finning practices, and since 1972 – for various reasons including finning – the number of blacktip sharks has fallen by 93 percent, tiger sharks by 97 percent, and bull sharks, dusky sharks and smooth hammerheads by 99 percent. This rapid and significant reduction in the shark population is disrupting the ocean’s equilibrium and threatening coastal ecosystems.

Although federal law prohibits shark finning, commercial fishermen continue to engage in the practice in other countries and throughout the open ocean.

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.