ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York is banning trade in shark fins starting next summer in an effort to protect the marine predators.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed the law Friday, said an estimated 73 million sharks are killed worldwide to meet the market demand. The fins are used in soup popular in Chinese cuisine.
So-called "finning" of sharks — catching them, cutting off their fins and returning them to the water to die — is already illegal in U.S. and New York coastal waters. New York also prohibits sport fishing for many shark species.
"Not only is the process inhumane, but it also affects the natural balance of the oceanic ecosystem," Cuomo said.
The law takes effect next July 1. It accommodates some demand by allowing the sale of fins from two species of dogfish, considered the most abundant shark in the North Atlantic.
"We certainly think it would be stronger without the exception, but it will protect the vast majority of sharks," said Patrick Kwan of the Human Society of the United States. Shark fins are considered a luxury cuisine item and most cooks don't use dogfish, he said.
Seven other states and the three U.S. Pacific territories have already banned trade in shark fins, Kwan said. They are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, Oregon, Washington, Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Environmental groups say the absence of sharks from food chains causes other fish to overpopulate, which can damage ocean ecosystems.
"Finally some respite for beleaguered shark populations," said Peter Knights, executive director of the international group WildAid. "New York is the last major market for shark fin in the U.S. to close and this encourages China, which has banned shark fin from state banquets, to take further action to reduce demand for shark fin."