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Bill to ban shark finning in Massachusetts passes Senate

A shark being finned alive.
A shark being finned alive.

It was a successful day at the Massachusetts State House yesterday when the Senate passed a bill to end shark finning. The cruel and inhumane practice of cutting the fins off live sharks causes a slow, painful death for the shark. The MSPCA Animal Action Team worked in conjunction with Senator Jason Lewis to pass H.B. 4088: An Act Relative to Ocean Ecology and Shark Protection.

The bill that would ban the trade, sale and possession of shark fins in Massachusetts just needs Governor Deval Patrick's signature to become law.

Shark finning is often practiced to obtain the fins for a popular Asian soup. According to Born Free USA, 73 million sharks worldwide succumb to the gruesome torture. Once the fin is removed, the shark is thrown back in the water where it either drowns or suffers blood loss. Some of the sharks are an endangered species.

Massachusetts would be the ninth state to enact a ban on shark fins, according to the MSPCA. The bill exempts skates, spiny dogfish and smooth-hounds because the entire shark is valued and there are legal fisheries for this. So long as the shark is intact with fin and legally caught, it will still be legal to sell.

By banning the sale of shark fins, Massachusetts will help end the cruel process of finning. According to the MSPCA, there are more than a dozen Massachusetts restaurants and businesses that currently sell shark fin soup or products.

Shark fins are often imported from Hong Kong, which are imported from many other countries, resulting in the U.S. receiving fins from countries with no bans or regulations. Frequently the sharks are endangered or threatened. DNA testing from a study done by Stony Brook University's Institute for Ocean Conservation Science in New York showed Boston received fins from the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark, according to the MSPCA.

The bill should not impact the local fishing industry.

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