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6/7/2016 General Assembly passes bill that forbids the sale and possession of shark fins in Rhode Island
STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island General Assembly today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown) and Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) to forbid the sale and possession of shark fins in Rhode Island.

The bills (2016-S 2676A, 2016-H 7440) would prohibit the possession, sale or trade of shark fins by those without a permit and would make those in violation of the act guilty of a misdemeanor. Permits for limited purposes would be issued by the Department of Environmental Management.

The measure, which has passed both the House and Senate, now heads to the governor’s office.

“Shark finning is a barbaric and reprehensible practice,” said Senator Sosnowski. “And even though Congress banned it in 2000, there are still loopholes that allow the practice to continue. This bill would make it a crime to own or sell a shark fin except for a person conducting legitimate scientific research, or preparing a shark for ordinary consumption.”

Shark fins are considered a delicacy in the cuisine of certain cultures. Often sharks are divested of their fins and then returned to the water, where, unable to swim, they sink to the bottom and die of suffocation or are eaten by other predators. The practice has led to an endangered status for many shark species.

“As a lifelong lover and defender of innocent animals, I could not in good conscience stand idly by while these cruel actions decimate the shark population in our oceans,” said Representative Shekarchi. “Sharks are an extremely important component in our eco-system and having their numbers drop in such a heartless way due to a soup is unacceptable and dangerous.  I’m pleased that Rhode Island is joining ten other states in forbidding this horrific practice.”

Shark fin soup is such a prized delicacy that as many as 100 million sharks are killed every year, according to a study in the Marine Policy Journal.

The bill would make the possession or sale of a shark fin a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or no more than 90 days in jail. A violation by a person with a commercial or recreational license would result in suspension or revocation of the license.

Kathryn Kullberg, director of marine and wildlife protection for the Humane Society, praised the legislation, saying “Overfishing of sharks is largely driven by the global market for their fins — mostly used in shark fin soup. The demand for shark fins incentivizes the cruel practice of shark finning. We’ll be glad to see the Ocean State join 10 other states in taking a stand to protect sharks worldwide.”

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903