By Eric Storms on This Dish Is Veg
Approximately 73 million sharks are killed each year primarily for their fins. In an attempt to help curb this activity, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands passed a law to stop the sale and possession of shark fins.
This law is modeled after Hawaii's SB 2169 which also prohibits the possession and sale of shark fins within the state.
'Finning' is a particularly gruesome practice. The sharks' fins are cut off while they are still alive, subsequently the animal is tossed back into the water, now fin-less, where they simply sink and drown—sharks need to move forward in order to move water through their gills.
The fins are typically dried and then used in soup in many Asian countries, primarily China, where it is considered a delicacy. This soup is often sold to tourists for as much as $350 a bowl. It is believed that the fins provide some magical cure to many ailments such as cancer. In reality, the fins add very little nutritional value beyond what can be had in vegetable soup. Actually due to its high mercury content shark fin soup may actually lead to sterility if consumed in a large enough quantity.
Shark populations are being impacted in order meet the demands of a growing middle class in Asia. Being an apex predator sharks play a key role in maintaining balance in the ecosystems they inhabit. Without the sharks, ecosystems fall out of balance and end up in collapse.
In addition to the proposed measure in the Northern Marinara Islands, Bill 44-33 is currently being debated in Guam, in what is another attempt at preventing further decline of shark populations.
Similar laws are also being considered in California, Oregon and Washington.