Mahmood S. Shivji, Ph.D., professor at NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography and director of the NSU Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center, recently met with members of Congress to discuss a new bill that would prohibit the sale of shark fins in the U.S.
The international trade in shark fins is a major driver of shark overfishing and the decline of shark populations worldwide. Each year, fins from an estimated 70 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade, according to the website of U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who is one of the bill’s sponsors.
The act of shark finning–a practice in which the fins of a captured shark are cut off aboard a vessel before the shark is thrown back into the ocean–is illegal in U.S. waters. However, shark fins continue to be bought and sold throughout the U.S., a practice that would be banned by the bipartisan Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016.
Presenting research on the shark fin trade, Shivji was invited to join a group including the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and SeaWorld in discussions with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, U.S. Representative John Fleming of Louisiana, U.S. Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas, and staff members from the offices of several other U.S. legislators, including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.
It was Shivji’s work in collaboration with Shelley Clarke, Ph.D., a fisheries scientist and global expert in the shark fin trade, which provided the first quantitative estimate of the number of sharks killed for the global fin trade. The staggering numbers resulted in international attention to the issue of shark overfishing.
“Working together with organizations like SeaWorld and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation can only help further the cause for environmental awareness,” Shivji said. “The issue of the shark fin trade is something we’ve been investigating for many years at NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Research Center. Millions of sharks are killed each year simply for their fins— these numbers are simply too high for sustainable shark fisheries; we have to do something in order to ensure that these magnificent creatures survive for generations to come. The more people we can get on board, the better chance we will have to do that.”
“Shark finning is pushing some species of sharks to the brink of extinction,” Booker said. “With this bipartisan measure, America can become a global leader by shutting down the domestic market for shark fins. Sharks play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems, and we must do more to protect them.”