For 'Shark Week,' 5 Shark Laws You May Not Know About

By Betty Wang, JD on August 05, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In celebration of Discovery Channel's "Shark Week," now in its 26th year, we thought it'd be only appropriate to remind you about some shark laws.

Because despite Steven Spielberg's still incredibly frightening thriller that might peg sharks as our enemies, they're not. And like many other misunderstood creatures, the law does what it can to protect and treat them fairly.

So, with that said, here are five shark laws that you may not know about:

  1. Shark finning. Shark finning is the specific act of capturing a shark just for their fins, removing the fins, and then discarding the rest of the shark back in the water. Fin-less sharks can still survive, but they are unable to effectively move. As a result, they often die of suffocation or are attacked and eaten by other predators. In general, shark finning is illegal -- it's prohibited by federal law. Despite that, there are still many loopholes: For example, it's not prohibited in international waters, just within U.S. territory.
  2. Shark fin sales. Why does the act of shark finning exist? Because many cultures consider shark fin a delicacy. Most commonly, it is used in shark fin soup that is served at banquets and celebrations like weddings. However, many states are now enacting laws to ban the sale of shark fins, including New York (where a new law takes effect next summer, according to The Associated Press) and California. Where shark fin is available, it can cost a pretty penny (some up to $50 for an individual bowl) because of the fact that it needs to be imported.
  3. Shark hunting regulations. Despite shark finning being illegal in the United States, many boats still are out there capturing whole sharks. With that act comes many regulations, depending on where the shark is caught, according to the Humane Society International. Within U.S. waters, for example, all sharks must be landed fully with their fins still attached in the natural way.
  4. Smooth dogfish sharks. Under the Shark Conservation Act of 2010, all species of shark are protected -- except when it comes to commercial fishing of smooth dogfish, a particular species of shark that's found off the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. The law allows fishermen to continue to separate fins from the dogfish carcasses, as long as they can demonstrate that the fins belong to those particular dogfish sharks.
  5. President's discretion. Also under the Shark Conversation Act, the president is given exclusive discretionary authority to restrict certain imports of shark into the country, if it is found that those sharks were treated inhumanely or if those countries did not take comparable actions.

Bet you didn't know all that, right? Happy Shark Week!

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