Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law Thursday that outlaws the possession and sale of shark fins in New Jersey.
The move was hailed by conservationists who railed against the practice known as “finning,” when fishermen cut off a shark’s fin and dump the animal back into the water while it’s still alive. The shark then dies, often slowly.
The fins are often used for shark fin soup, a delicacy in China and other East Asian countries for hundreds of generations. It’s frequently served at banquets and weddings and has long been seen as a symbol of status.
A few New Jersey restaurants still serve shark fin soup, according to the Animal Welfare Institute.
The new law bans the harvesting, sale, trade, distribution, and possession of shark fins in the state. It takes effect immediately.
“Shark fins are often obtained in a very inhumane manner that causes much suffering to the animal,” Murphy, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I am proud to sign this law that will prevent the catch and release of sharks for the purpose of cutting off their fins.”
According to estimates by Humane Society of the United States, 72 million sharks die each year because of the practice.
“With this new law, New Jersey now joins 13 other states in ending the sale of shark fins,” said state Senator Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, one of the bill’s main sponsors. “I will continue to advocate for animals, whether they are a part of our marine life or domesticated in our homes, to ensure that they are not abused or needlessly harmed.”
The measure (S2905) passed the state Legislature by a wide majority. It cleared the state Senate in a 33-6 vote in January and the state Assembly, 54-19, with one abstention.
"Shark finning is an inhumane practice that leads to the animal’s slow, excruciating death,” said another prime sponsor, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson. “Aside from being downright cruel, shark finning is threatening the very existence of certain species, which ultimately poses a threat to the balance of all marine life.”
The Garden State Seafood Association was vehemently opposed to the bill, saying it would penalize New Jersey fishermen.
Those who violate the ban face the following penalties ranging from a minimum of $5,000 fine for the first offense to a maximum $55,000 fine and up to a year in prison for three or more offenses.
The money would help fund wildlife conservation.