Model Laws

Ban on Shark Fin Trade


Read Commentary


Sec. 1. Rational

The greatest threat to sharks is the global trade in shark fins. It is estimated that fins from as many as 73,000,000 sharks end up in the global shark fin trade every year. The practice of shark finning, where a shark is caught, its fins are sliced off while it is still alive, and the animal returned to the sea to suffer a slow and painful death, constitutes a serious threat to coastal ecosystems and biodiversity. Although the United States has banned the practice of shark finning aboard vessels in waters controlled by the U.S., there is no federal ban on the removal and sale of shark fins once the fin is brought ashore. Once a shark fin is detached from the body, it becomes impossible to determine whether the shark was legally caught or the fins were unlawfully removed. Therefore, only an outright ban on the trade of shark fins will protect shark species and help eliminate the cruel act of shark finning.


Sec. 2. Definitions

For the purpose of this section:


(a) "Shark" means any species of the subclass Elasmobranchii, but does not include smooth dogfish (smooth hounds), spiny dogfish or species in the suborder Batoidea.


(b) "Shark Fin" means the raw, dried, or otherwise processed detached fin, or the raw, dried or otherwise processed detached tail, of an elasmobranch.


Sec. 3. Prohibitions

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, purchase, deliver for a commercial purpose, or possess on a commercial or recreational fishing vessel a shark fin or tail or part of a shark fin or tail that has been removed from the carcass.


(b) It shall be unlawful to cause or permit deterioration or waste of a fish taken in the waters of this state or brought into this state, or to take, receive, or agree to receive more fish than can be used without deterioration, waste, or spoilage.

(c) Any shark fin seized through the enforcement of this section shall be destroyed.


Sec. 4. Exceptions

A person may possess a shark fin that was taken lawfully under a State, territorial, or Federal license or permit to take or land sharks, if the shark fin is separated from the shark in a manner consistent with the license or permit and is

  1. destroyed or discarded upon separation;
  2. used for noncommercial subsistence purposes in accordance with State or territorial law or
  3. used solely for display or research purposes by a museum, college, or university, or other person under a State or Federal permit to conduct noncommercial scientific research.

Sec. 5. Penalties, Degree of Crime

(a) A person violating any provision of section 3 of this act shall be guilty of:

  1. for a first offense, a person convicted under section 3 shall be fined not less than $500 and not more than $1,500;
  2. for a second offense, a person shall be fined less than $1,500 and not more than $3,500 or by imprisonment for not more than ninety (90) days;
  3. for a third or subsequent offense, a person shall be fined not less than $3,500 and not more than $5,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one-hundred and eighty (180) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.


(b) Upon a conviction for violating the provisions of section 3 of this act, the court shall order the seizure and forfeiture of shark fins, commercial or recreational marine licenses, vessels, fishing equipment, or other property involved in violation of section 3. A shark fin seized through the enforcement of this section shall be destroyed.


(c) A violation of section 3 by a person holding a commercial or recreational fishing license or permit may result in the suspension or revocation of such license or permit.


Additional Commentary

Shark finning is a cruel and wasteful practice by which a fin is sliced off a shark while the shark is alive and conscious. The shark is then tossed back into the ocean where it is unable to swim and suffers a slow and painful death over the course of several days.


Shark fins are tempting targets for fishermen because they have high monetary value. They are often used to make shark fin soup, which is a symbol of status in Chinese culture.


The market for shark fins drives the brutal practice of shark finning and the killing of an estimated 100 million sharks per year. Dramatic declines in population have endangered many species of shark, which imperils not only those sharks but entire ecosystems. Sharks are particularly susceptible to overfishing because they only reach sexual maturity between seven to twelve years of age and hatch or birth small litters. When shark populations decrease, a ripple effect can spread throughout the rest of the ecosystem.


By impacting the demand for shark fins, states can help ensure that sharks do not become extinct because of shark finning. However, shark finning is still legal within most state borders and the federal law banning the practice of shark finning aboard vessels in waters controlled by the United States does not affect the sale of shark fins across the country.


Currently, only 11 states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington have implemented bans on the sale of shark fins. A ban in all U.S. states will help significantly in solving this problem.



Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; Ocean Portal


Humane Society International


Oceana Organization


Hawaii Permanent Statute


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