No Shark Fin Soup For You

The Governor is putting a stop to owning and buying the fins in Massachusetts.

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

Governor Deval Patrick is sinking his teeth into a new law that will put an end to the possession and sale of shark fins in Massachusetts.

Currently, due to what legislators call “an economic loophole,” the controversial shark fin trade has been able to thrive, despite the fact that the act of so-called “shark finning,” where fishermen slice off a shark’s dorsal fin while it’s alive and toss it back into the water, leaving it for dead, is prohibited by state and federal law.

Conservationists claim the shark fin trade has led to a decline in the species’ population worldwide, but on Thursday Patrick will officially cut the line on the practice during a ceremony at the New England Aquarium when he signs the new bill to effectively prohibit people from owning or even purchasing shark fins in the Commonwealth.

“With the passing of this law Massachusetts builds upon its long history of animal protection and environmental stewardship,” said Patrick in a statement Wednesday, when he announced that he was poised to sign the bill. “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.”

Shark finning has become a popular and lucrative international trade due to the use of the animals’ body parts in delicacies such as “Shark Fin Soup.” According to a spokesperson from MSPCA-Angell, more than a dozen restaurants in the state—many of which are in Boston— currently sell the unique soup to customers. With this new law, called “an act relative to ocean ecology and shark protection,” in place, that item will no longer be allowed to appear on the menu.

If a restaurant is caught violating the new ban, the owners could face a $500 to $1,000 fine for each fin they have in their possession, as well as up to 60 days in jail. Activists hope that by eliminating and restricting the market access for fins it will reduce the demand for the soup and deter the “inhumane” practice.

Nigella Hillgarth, president and CEO of the New England Aquarium, said she was pleased with the outcome of the legislation, which was the result of bipartisan support at the State House during the current session, and the tireless efforts of a coalition of ocean conservation and animal welfare advocates like the MSPCA-Angell, the Humane Society of the United States, and Fin Free Massachusetts.

“We are thrilled that the legislature has taken action to protect sharks by restricting market access for their fins,” said Hillgarth.

Similar bans are already in place in states like Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, and New York, according to reports.