During the 116 Congress on Jan. 23, 2019, a bill was introduced to Congress that will prohibit the sale of shark fins. Shark finning has been an ongoing problem for many years, and this bill is a step in the right direction, not just for sharks, but for all animals who are being poached. As with any bill, there are exceptions. The official bill states that exceptions will be made for fins “used for noncommercial subsistence purposes in accordance with State or territorial law; used solely for display or research purposed by a museum, college or university…; or by any other person under a State or Federal permit to conduct noncommercial scientific research or if it is retained by the license or permit holder for a noncommercial purpose.”
Poaching is defined as illegally hunting or catching on land that is not one’s own or in contravention of official protection. Animals like elephants, rhinos, giraffes, tigers and sea turtles have been poached for many years. Some species, like the western black rhinoceros, have been driven to the point of extinction by poachers. Many times animals like these are hunted and killed for a small part of their body, like a horn or fin. The body part is then sold at an extremely high price to foreign nations to use in traditional medicines or cuisine.
Many conservationists have been vocal about needing a change in laws as more species get added to the endangered species list. In recent years, the number of animals killed annually has reached historic heights, for example, the number of African rhinos poached in 2010 was around 400. In 2015 it was 1,400. Due to this recent trend, many governments around the globe have enacted much stricter laws about poaching. Kenya has the harshest laws in the world for poachers, with the minimum punishment being imprisonment.
Poaching doesn’t just affect only one species; it affects the entire ecosystem, which then can affect an entire country’s economy. All animals, on some level, are connected with one another. When the population of a certain species decreases, the population of another rises. Sometimes, certain species are needed as population control. Take sharks for example. They are apex predators, meaning that they are the top of the food chain. When the number of sharks goes down, the number of their prey goes up. Without having sharks eating the fish, the general fish population will grow out of control. Normally, this will even out, but when humans interfere and sharks start becoming endangered, there will be an overpopulation of fish, which negatively affects the ocean’s ecosystems.
The fact that countries have started to enforce laws against poaching is a step in the right direction for endangered species on earth. With stricter law enforcement, these animals have a chance of getting off the endangered species list.