Putting an end to the bestial act of shark finning, a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, John Armato and Vincent Mazzeo to ban the harvest and sale of shark fins in New Jersey passed 53-18 in the full Assembly on Monday, giving it final legislative approval.
Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year because of shark finning, a practice that involves brutally cutting the fins off of sharks and throwing them back into the ocean often while still alive. The sharks die, either immediately or within hours, because they need their fins for balance, to swim and to hunt for food.
This fatal disruption to the shark population, for the sake of shark fin soup – a delicacy – and the medicinal properties the fins are believed to hold, threatens not only the specifies but the vitality and survival of entire ecosystems.
“Shark finning is an inhumane practice that leads to the animal’s slow, excruciating death,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “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-4845) 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. It also allows for possession by commercial and recreational fishermen if fins have been obtained lawfully and in accordance with their license or permit.
“The shark fin trade leads to the death of millions of sharks annually and has a devastating impact on the ocean’s ecosystem,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “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; imprisonment for no more than one year, or both.
Each day during which a violation continues would constitute an additional, separate and distinct offense. All monies collected through fines would go to fund wildlife conservation.
“The bottom line is that the shark fin trade is unsustainable,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Sharks play an invaluable role in maintaining marine ecosystems, and New Jersey must take a stand against finning in order to preserve them.”
It is estimated that annually as many as 73 million sharks, if not more, are traded worldwide for the production of shark fin soup. And, despite shark finning being illegal in American waters, thriving consumer demand coupled with lacking restrictions on the possession, sale and import of fins has created conditions under which the market continues to thrive.
The bill passed the Senate earlier this year by a vote of 33-6. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.