20 June, 2015

Today, the State of Texas adopted a legislative ban on shark fins, through the enactment of House Bill 1579 (sponsored by Representative Eddie Lucio III). The bill was signed into law today by Gov. Greg Abbott. The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE), applauds the State of Texas for joining them in their work to actively address shark conservation issues, and their attempts to reduce shark fin consumption in the U.S. and worldwide.

Texas is now the tenth State in the U.S. and the largest to ban the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of shark fins. Texas provides a large market for shark fins in the United States, and this law represents a significant step towards reducing pressure on rapidly declining shark populations. "Texas has seen a 240% increase in fin trade in recent years, partially as a result of fin bans in other States," said Christopher Chin, COARE's executive director. "Ultimately, we'd prefer a stronger law than this amended version, which provides for possible loopholes, but this is still a great move for the State – and for the cause."

Every year, as many as 73 million sharks are killed, tens of millions for their fins alone. The fins are used for shark fin soup, a luxury dish sometimes served at Chinese weddings and banquets. This soup has grown in popularity, increasing consumer demand for shark fins and contributing to the decimation of shark populations worldwide. As a result of these fishing pressures, one-third of open ocean sharks are already threatened with extinction.

Animals at the top of the food chain, such as sharks, have few natural predators, so they are slow to mature, and have very few young. As a result, they are extremely sensitive to fishing pressures, and are slow to recover from overfishing. As sharks play a vital role in the oceans, their depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems.

House Bill (HB) 1579 was introduced to the Texas House of Representatives on 09 March 2015 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Harlingen). An amended version was passed by the House on 16 April 2015 with a vote of 116-28, and the state Senate passed that amended version as well on 27 May 2015, with a final vote of 24-7. Texas' ban will take effect on 01 July 2016, and complements similar legislation enacted in California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Illinois, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York, as well as in the U.S. Pacific territories of Guam and American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Fiji, and the Bahamas.

Christopher Chin
+1 510-495-7875