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SOS for Sharks.

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It may be the most sought-after soup in the world, but at what cost? Shark fin soup is such a prized delicacy that as many as 100 million sharks are killed every year, a recent study in the Marine Policy Journal reported. That has spurred several states and territories to pass laws to strengthen national anti-finning efforts.

Shark fin soup, which commands up to $100 a bowl, has signified wealth and status at Chinese weddings and other official occasions for centuries. The shark fins, which are cartilage, are said to add texture rather than flavor to the soup, although some aficionados believe they also boost energy and sex drive.

"Finning" involves cutting off the fins (back, tail and pectoral) from a live shark then throwing the animal back into the ocean to die. The practice increasingly is seen as inhumane, harmful to ocean ecology and likely to lead to the extinction of many shark species if left

unchecked.

The federal Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 makes it illegal to remove sharks' fins and discard the carcasses at sea. Ten years later, the Shark Conservation Act put some teeth in the earlier law and eliminated a few loopholes.

In 2010, Hawaii was the first state to pass legislation that banned the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins, except for use in licensed research. California, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the European Union and 27 other countries have similar bans. Fines in the state laws range from $1,000 for a first offense to $50,000 for subsequent offenses, and some states include imprisonment.

Lawmakers in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas introduced legislation this year on shark fins. As of July 31, Delaware, Maryland and New York had passed bills.

Enforcement of these bans is difficult, although advances in DNA research is helping. Scientists can now use DNA from shark fins to determine where they came from.

But not everyone's on board with banning the practice. Two organizations of Asian Americans sued last year in federal court to block California's law from taking effect, claiming it discriminates against Chinese-Americans. They lost, but plan to appeal.

Anti-finning efforts may be changing young people's view of the soup, which ultimately will have the most impact on dampening the practice and preserving the world's sharks.

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Title Annotation:TRENDS & TRANSITIONS
Author:Shinkle, Doug
Publication:State Legislatures
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2013
Words:395
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