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New York lawmakers vote to ban shark fin sales

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New York lawmakers voted unanimously on Monday, May 6, to ban the shark fin trade in the state in an effort to protect the threatened marine predators from overfishing globally, reported the The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

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The legislation passed by the New York State Assembly on Monday and by the Senate in April, will outlaw the sale or possession of raw or dried shark fins starting July 1, 2014.

The “finning” of sharks refers to catching them, cutting off their fins and returning them to the water.

Shark finning is banned in all U.S. waters, but states can still import and sell the product from places like China and Mexico.

The vote sends the measure to Gov. Cuomo’s desk for a signature that could make New York the seventh state in the nation to ban the sale, purchase and possession of shark fins.

Sponsors of the legislation call it a “barbaric practice” which kills more than 70 million sharks around the world each year.

Millions of sharks sink and drown in the ocean after their fins are cut off. The fins are then used as one of the main ingredients in the Chinese delicacy shark fin soup, a dish that is regarded as a status symbol.

“New York must not be complicit in the reprehensible practice of shark finning, which has led to the demise of shark populations worldwide”, said Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).

Illinois, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Maryland have all passed similar bans prohibiting the shark fin trade. Delaware’s legislature passed a bill on May 2 that is now awaiting Gov. Jack Markell’s signature. In Texas, the House of Representatives voted to ban the shark fin trade last week. That measure heads for the senate.

New York has become the largest point of entry and distribution for shark fins on the East Coast. “Growing up in Chinatown, I never thought I’d see an end to the horrific shark fin trade”, said Patrick Kwan, director of the Humane Society.

With bans appearing imminent in New York and Delaware, environmental groups are hoping more states will pass laws outlawing the business.

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