Sharks play critical roles in the marine ecosystem, and they face serious threats due to overfishing. Conservation efforts have focused on the consumption of shark fins, especially the “finning” practice that removes the fins of a shark and discards the carcass at sea. This article reviews the shark fin legislation in the United States, including the “finning ban” which outlaws finning practices and the “fin ban” that prohibits the use of shark fins entirely. Our case study specifically focuses on the animal welfare, cultural, and policy debates surrounding these bans. We discuss how and why shark finning is regarded as a cruel practice and whether shark fin bans discriminate against Chinese Americans. At the policy level, there is an ongoing policy debate whether a ban on shark fins in the United States would lead to increased protection of sharks or it would have little effect on the global trade. Due to the lack of detailed information on shark fisheries, the policy discussion is likely to persist. Although this case study focuses only on regulations on shark fins, we would like to emphasize that shark fin industry is not the only threat to sharks. Conservationists also need to consider other issues such as bycatch, habitat destruction, and a wider array of policy tools to protect sharks.

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