Why Do We Focus on the 'Trade of Fins' and Not 'Finning'?

Stop taking my fins!

Notice that we didn't say ‘Finning’ is driving sharks to extinction?

‘Finning’ is a despicable practice that should be outlawed across the board. It actually has been outlawed in many countries and States. But it hasn't made a dent in how many sharks are taken for their fins. It is the high dollar ‘trade of fins’ that needs to be addressed, not only the ‘act of finning.’ Allowing the trade of the product is the incentive to keep ‘finning,’ whether your state endorses it or not.

  • Although shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters (Shark Conservation Act of 2009), the act is still occurring: Miami Herald - Butchered shark fins seized...

  • While shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, shark fins (including imports from countries that allow finning) continue to be bought and sold throughout the U.S.

  • 5 of the 11 countries that export fins to the U.S. have no shark finning bans in place, making it very likely that fins coming into the U.S. are from sharks that have been finned.

  • In fact, NOAA records show over 85 alleged shark finning cases since January 2010.

When your State doesn't prohibit the import and export of fins, then a finning law doesn't have any effect, except on some small local fisheries.


advocates must be clear on the terminology.

When you demand that your government take action on ‘finning’ they will simply respond by saying "Done. Not a problem anymore." Yes, we all hate finning, but we must be savvy when presenting our case. Consider it one of the most important talking points in a fin campaign. When you are trying to convince authorities to do something they may not want to deal with, you have to make sure you are not demanding something that can so easily be out-argued. 

So don't be deterred by claims that the shark fin issue has been addressed by a prohibition on finning, or the requirement to land sharks whole. As long as a State permits the selling and transporting of fins, it inadvertently supports the international market for fins and illegal finning. This is why we demand a prohibition on the sale and trade of fins.


When finning laws failed, we moved to ‘LANDED WHOLE.’

The act of ‘finning’ is illegal in the U.S. and many countries around the world. Most of these countries require for sharks to be ‘landed whole,’ meaning you cannot cut the fins off a shark and throw the body back in the ocean. The requirement to land sharks whole is an improvement to finning laws, but unfortunately it still doesn't address the fin issue:

  • The practice of ‘finning’ continues because it is extremely difficult to monitor what is done at sea. ‘Landed whole’ can only be enforced before the sharks are processed, which happens very quickly after the carcasses arrive on land. Once fins are cut, there is no way to tell where they came from. If fins are found in a warehouse, there is no way to tell whether they came from sharks that were finned at sea or from legal fisheries.

  • Because of the high value of fins, it is worth bringing in the whole shark, even if the body is wasted. Most shark species do not have high grade meat. In some places the bodies are thrown out after they are landed. It has also incentivized development of more shark products. Without the value of fins, sharks would be commercially a lot less interesting (with the exception of certain species that are valued for their meat).

  • Making use of every part of the shark doesn't automatically make it sustainable.

It doesn't matter whether fins have been taken legally or illegally, through finning or after being processed on land. the end result is the same. Millions of sharks are taken to supply the trade of fins.

Stefanie Brendl