AWI Tip Leads Texas Officials to Illegal Shark Fin Sales

The cruel shark fin trade continues to decimate shark populations worldwide, and demand from the United States contributes to that toll. Although 15 states and territories ban the sale of shark fin products, it remains legal to sell them in most of the United States.

Each year, AWI audits its online list of restaurants serving shark fin, including those in states with bans. If we believe a restaurant is flouting a state ban, we notify authorities. During its 2017 audit, AWI found a Texas restaurant that was serving shark fin soup despite a state ban. We notified Texas wildlife enforcement officials, who investigated. Subsequently, the restaurant was charged and pleaded guilty to illegally serving shark fin products.

The county prosecutor in Collin County, Texas, informed AWI that this was the first prosecution she is aware of under the 2016 Texas law establishing the ban. The prosecutor’s office worked closely with Texas game wardens, who reviewed DNA samples of the offered shark fin. Officer Michael Stevens, the game warden initially notified by AWI, let the prosecutor know about AWI’s shark fin campaign. Ultimately, as part of the plea deal, the restaurant was required to make a donation to AWI for its shark protection work.

While this outcome in Texas is an extremely encouraging sign, a nationwide ban on shark fin products is needed. The bipartisan Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (HR 1456) would accomplish this. The bill has more than 250 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. Its companion bill, the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act (S 793), has more than 36 co-sponsors in the Senate. These bills would prohibit the sale of shark fins in the United States, help reduce the international shark fin trade, and improve enforcement capabilities.

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