HARRISBURG, February 12, 2013 – State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) announced that a bill to ban the possession of illegally-obtained shark fins was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

“Sharks play a vital role in the food chain, and their disappearance would cause irreparable damage to the natural ocean habitat,” Leach said. “I am thankful that my colleagues in the Judiciary Committee have approved a measure that would offer a level of protection to sharks, and I am eager for it to be signed into law.”

Leach explained that shark finning is an illegal process during which poachers catch sharks in huge numbers, remove their fins to sell, and then dump their bodies back into the ocean. Though the sharks are still alive, they are unable to swim without their fins and, ultimately, they suffocate, starve to death or are killed by another animal. It is estimated that shark populations along the Atlantic coast of the United States have decreased by 90 percent from their historic levels and shark finning is to blame.

S.B. 340, prime-sponsored by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Adams/Franklin/York) and co-prime-sponsored by Leach, makes the possession of an illegally-obtained shark fin a summary offense, with each separate fin counting as a separate crime.

An estimated 73 million sharks are harvested annually for their fins, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Shark Specialist Group said, “The rapidly expanding and largely unregulated shark fin trade represents one of the most serious threats to shark populations worldwide.”

Humane Society International added, “Shark fin soup is cruel and wasteful. Fins removed, the animals are thrown back into the water to die slowly and painfully. Finning is not only inhumane; it allows sharks to be caught in unsustainable numbers. Apex predators, sharks play an essential role in marine ecosystems. Shark finning endangers their survival—and that of the species that rely on them.”

Leach said the bill will now move to the Senate floor for consideration.