A Happy Day for Sharks from the Prairie State


I've been blogging about the effort to get an Illinois shark fin ban bill ever since NRDC started working on the issue here; from the introduction of HB 4119 – a ban on the sale, trade, distribution, or possession of shark fins all the way through yesterday, when I am proud to report that Governor Quinn signed the bill into law.

 Governor Quinn not only understood the significance of contributing to ocean’s protection from a state nearly a 1,000 miles away from any ocean’s coast, but he wanted to make a demonstration of leadership to other states who have not kept pace by hosting a ceremonial bill signing, which I was honored to attend at an iconic educational landmark, Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium.

Our oceans are under great duress with increasing challenges from a warming climate, overfishing, coastal developments, pollution, and rapid species decline just to name a few contributing factors.  The world’s ocean once thought to be a vast body of water with a tipping point that far exceeds human capacity, has literally been pushed to the brink of ecological collapse.  Take sharks – the top predator – species that have been around for over 400 million years are threatened with extinction. The driver of this threat to 1/3 of open-ocean shark species, according to a report published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is the demand for their fins – a primary ingredient used in shark fin soup.  It is this intense demand for fins coupled with lucrative markets around the world that have lead to the killing of an estimated 26-73 million sharks each year.  While that figure sounds both appalling and astonishing to me, it wasn’t until I watched a short, informative video by Dan Rather that depicts the magnitude of the devastation from a chilling perspective of just how bad this epidemic had become did I fully comprehend the need for such swift action. 

Sure, Illinois is a landlocked state. But that doesn't mean we can't do our part to help throttle down the demand that is quickly killing our seas by eliminating a species necessary to keep balance. The rule of the land can have a big impact on the ocean.  Just as people all over the country and far from the Great Lakes are concerned about the threat of Asian carp and other invasive species to our fresh water seas, we need to be concerned about the inhumane and biologically dangerous practice of shark “finning” as a threat to the health of our oceans.

Today Illinois has said, “enough” and made history by ending its contribution to the devastation by enacting HB 4119 into law.  Illinois joins the coastal states of California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii in its efforts and shines a spotlight on New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware where similar proposals have been introduced, but stalled because state-vested interests have pushed back to maintain the status quo rather than play their part in protecting our ocean’s resources.