Massachusetts Passes Ban on Shark Fins

July 23, 2014

BOSTON, July 23, 2014 – Flanked by a coalition of ocean protection and animal welfare organizations at the New England Aquarium, Governor Deval Patrick will sign into law tomorrow a ban on the possession and sale of shark fins in Massachusetts, an historic milestone deemed critical in the decades-long push to close an economic loophole that has led to a massive decline in shark populations. 

The signing ceremony will take place at 11:00a.m. on Thursday, July 24 at the aquarium, a recognized leader in ocean conservation, education and research.

"With the passing of this law Massachusetts builds upon its long history of animal protection and environmental stewardship," said Governor 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.  

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, Mass.  

“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.  “We are thrilled that the legislature has taken action to protect sharks by restricting market access for their fins,” said Hillgarth.  “Massachusetts’ shark protection efforts also complement and 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.”

“The trend lines are clear: both the federal and state governments are ramping up efforts to protect sharks and save species so vital to maintaining healthy marine ecosystems,” said Laura Hagen, deputy director of advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell.

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. 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. 

The law will go into effect immediately once signed by Governor Patrick. 

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The MSPCA-Angell is a national and international leader in animal protection and veterinary medicine and provides direct hands-on care for thousands of animals each year. Founded in 1868, it is the second-oldest humane society in the United States. Services include animal protection and adoption, advocacy, humane education, law enforcement, and world-class veterinary care. The MSPCA-Angell is a private, non-profit organization. It does not receive any government funding nor is it funded or operated by any national humane organization. The MSPCA-Angell relies solely on the support and contributions from individuals who care about animals. Please visit www.mspca.org and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mspcaangell

 

The New England Aquarium is one of the most prominent and popular aquariums in North America and is a recognized international leader in ocean conservation, education and research.  The Aquarium is among the region’s most-visited tourist attractions and is cultivating widespread public awareness about the benefits and responsibility in improving the health of the oceans and the Earth.  For more information visit www.neaq.org