Many illegal shark finning shipments regularly pass through international ports in the US heading for Hong Kong. Jason Bittel reported for the National Resources Defense Council that “From 2010 to 2017, the United States unintentionally played middleman to somewhere between 650 and 772 tons of shark fin exports, accounting for as many as 1.29 million sharks.”
This article raises questions as to why these shark fin shipments are passing through our borders without being monitored, thereby making the US a “weak link” in the inspection chain. As Bittel explains, the problem lies in the cargo handling procedures of US ports. So long as the cargo is not unloaded at the ports, there is no legal obligation to check the contents of the ship. Also, shark fins are often listed as “dried seafood” or some other vague variant, excluding the fins from protection under endangered species legislation.
A measure suggested to prevent the US involvement in illegal shark fin shipping includes funneling all seafood shipments through ports with the officials and capacity necessary to monitor sensitive cargo. However, to end shark finning practices completely, Elizabeth Murdock, director of the NRDC’s Pacific Oceans Initiative, states that “it’s only going to get solved through international collaboration, because some of the countries from which these shipments are coming have a lot less capacity for law enforcement and inspections and monitoring than the United States does.”
An important aspect of international collaboration and the passion behind it stems from media coverage of important issues, which unfortunately in this case is missing. The only substantive report of the US involvement in shark fin shipping comes from National Geographic. So long as the media stays silent on this preventable issue, the 2000 ban only partially removes us from the immoral practice of shark finning.
Source: Jason Bittel, “The Surprise Middleman in the Illegal Shark Fin Trade: The United States,” NRDC, November 20, 2019, https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/surprise-middleman-illegal-shark-fin-trade-united-states.
Student Researcher: Jerdaine Gourzong (Indian River State College)
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)