Ivory, rhino horn may get 'shark fin' ban too

Updated: 2014-06-16 11:59

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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New York State's ban on the sale and possession of shark fins, which goes into effect next month, is already having ripple effects.

Not only has the price of shark fins plummeted in specialty stores trying to unload their inventory, but the sale and purchase of elephant ivory and rhino horn may be next on the list of prohibited animal parts.

In Chinatown, shark fin stores posted signs reading: "Huge sales, all to go by July 1."

"We have to sell these expensive shark fins at 70 percent of their original price because the ban is only 17 days away," said one staff worker at a store. "Our business is getting harder."

The state Assembly passed legislation this week that amended environmental laws to also ban ivory and rhino horn sales. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation by June 19.

New York is the biggest market for ivory sales in the US, and the US is the second-biggest market after China, according to Iris Ho, wildlife program manager of Humane Society International.

At a press conference in New York City on Friday, representatives from the Humane Society and the American Buddhist Confederation in New York reminded practicing Buddhists in the Chinese community about the shark-fin ban that starts July 1, and the pending legislation on the sale of ivory and rhino horn.

"The cruel ivory trade is incompatible with the compassion and peace that Buddhists believe in and advocate." said Refa Shi, president of the American Buddhist Confederation.

The Humane Society partnered with the American Buddhist Confederation a few years ago to spread information about the ivory and rhino horn trade and the consumption of shark fin.

In the Chinese community, ivory is often used in religious items such as Buddhist statues and Buddhist beasts, with many Chinese unaware of the inhumane way ivory is acquired, Ho said. "That's why we want to make sure that the Chinese communities that have religious ivory will stop purchasing these ivory items for the sake of protecting the animals," she said.

Ivory, rhino horn may get 'shark fin' ban too

Shark fins are used in a popular Chinese dish called shark fin soup, which is usually served on special occasions like weddings or holidays. Shark fin soup is widely available in Chinese restaurants across the US as well as restaurants in China.

The shark fin law takes effect on July 1. It accommodates some demand by allowing the sale of fins from two species of dogfish, considered the most abundant shark in the North Atlantic.

The so-called finning of sharks - catching them, cutting off their fins and returning them to the water to die - is already illegal in the US and New York coastal waters. New York also prohibits sport fishing for many shark species.

Anyone caught possessing, selling or distributing shark fins in New York State after July 1 will be fined $100 for each fin and may face up to 15 days in jail.

"Every year, an estimated 73 million sharks are killed to supply the growing global demand for their fins," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said when he signed the ban.

"Not only is the process inhumane, but it also affects the natural balance of the oceanic ecosystem."

Other states with shark-fin bans are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Maryland and Delaware.


(China Daily USA 06/16/2014 page2)