Sharks

Joining California, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, Illinois could become the next state to make it illegal to sell, trade or distribute shark fins if a proposed bill that was approved by the House makes it past Illinois’ Senate.

While not a coastal state, Illinois is still one of the nation’s largest markets for the Chinese delicacy. The practice of shark-finning is highly controversial not just for the brutal slaughter of nearly 100 million sharks each year, but for the environmental impact the degradation of the species has on oceanic ecosystems.

A federal law already prohibits the practice of bringing finned sharks to shore, but there is no federal law preventing the sale or distribution of the severed fins, which are removed from live sharks who are then tossed back into the ocean where they either bleed to death, are eaten by other animals, or drown, as the removal of their fin makes swimming extremely difficult.

As predators at the top of the food chain, once shark populations are disrupted, imbalances soon follow and are often difficult to correct. The rapid loss of populations from finning mixed with the slow reproduction processes of many shark species makes correcting the issue even more challenging for environmentalists and ocean conservationists.

And new research out of the University of Miami indicates that there are considerable human health risks in consuming the fins of sharks. BMAA—a neurotoxin connected with several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)—was found in high enough concentrations among several species of shark to be “a cause for concern” warn study authors, not only in shark fin soup, but also dietary supplements that contain shark fin, often called “shark cartilage.”

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