The legislation prohibits the commercial trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins in the United States.
The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act represents a multiyear effort by lawmakers, under pressure from animal-rights and ecological organizations such as the Animal Welfare Institute and Oceana, to ban the trade of shark fins.
Seventeen states and three U.S. territories have banned or restricted the intrastate sale of shark fins, but instituting a federal framework is critical as fins imported and sold in the U.S. can come from endangered or threatened shark species, or from sharks that were finned.
The act of shark finning—cutting off the fin of a shark and then discarding the maimed animal, often still alive, back to sea—was already illegal in the United States prior to the new legislation. However, these wrongly obtained fins were still imported and exported on American soil, which served to legitimize the unethical trade chiefly responsible for sharks' declining populations.
First introduced in 2016 as standalone Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act bills the U.S. Senate passed the U.S. Senate on 15 December by a vote of 83-11 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 7776).