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Bill of the Week: Save the Sharks

Bill would ban trade in shark fins

By Jordan Smith, 8:48AM, Sun. Mar. 3, 2013

What's cruel and unusual, and if a bipartisan group of lawmakers have their say, will soon be illegal? If you guessed shark-finning, you're right.

The practice of hunting sharks for their fins – a practice that leaves the shark alive in the water, but destined to drown, starve, or to face a slow death from the pecking of predators – is usually done to satisfy human taste for shark fin soup. The practice is so detrimental that several species of shark are actually on the brink of extinction because of the practice, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

In an effort to eliminate the practice in Texas Gulf waters and to stand in solidarity with other salt-water-shored states, Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, has teamed up with colleagues Reps. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, and Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio, and with Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, for House Bill 852 (Senate Bill 572) prohibit the sale, trade, purchase, and transportation of shark fins in Texas. "Federal law already prohibits the finning of sharks at sea and Texas law limits the daily bag of a shark to one per day per licensed fisher," Taylor said in a January press release. "This bill complements existing law by removing sharks from the list of finfish that a person can have de-headed or de-finned and prohibits the sale and purchase of shark fins."

David McGuire, director of the conservation group Shark Stewards, says that Gulf shark populations are at "serious risk from the illegal shark fin trade." The fate of the shark is crucial for the ocean ecosystem, in part because they are apex predators whose survival impacts all other marine life, says the HSUS. "The practice of shark finning is detrimental to the Gulf ecosystem and is inhumane," Lucio said in the release. "I am committed to eliminating this problem and will focus our efforts in this session."

If successful, Texas would be the sixth state to enact anti-shark-finning legislation, behind California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington. Bans have also passed in Guam, American Samoa, and the Marinna Islands. The state laws are crucial to cracking down on the practice because federal laws aren't strong enough to prohibit inland trafficking in ill-gotten shark fins, according to HSUS.

SB 572 is slated for public hearing in the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, March 5.

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