The gruesome practice of slicing off a shark's fins and discarding its carcass at sea will be prohibited in all U.S. waters under a new law passed by Congress late last year. The measure is meant to target Pacific Ocean fishermen who supply shark fins to Asian markets, where they are prized as a culinary delicacy and an aphrodisiac. Shark fin soup can sell for as much as $100 a bowl in some Asian countries. The U.S. Commerce Department moved in 1993 to halt finning in Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico waters after it became apparent that the practice was reducing shark populations. That ruling did not affect fishing in the Pacific, where finning was less prevalent a decade ago. But in recent years finning has become a major problem in areas like Hawaii, where more than 60,000 sharks were finned in 1998. The federal law is similar to state legislation that Hawaii's governor signed last June. Following two years of intensive lobbying, environmentalists praised lawmakers for taking action. We are ecstatic that the Congress has responded to the American public's outrage over finning, said Russell Dunn, assistant director for the Ocean Wildlife Campaign. The Project AWARE Foundation also supported the ban on shark finning.
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