“Finning” has been banned in the United States for more than a decade, but the sale and trade of fins isn’t regulated: Shark fins are both exported from and imported into the United States. An estimated 73 million sharks are killed annually worldwide to meet the growing demand for shark-fin soup, said Kathleen Schatzmann, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Humane Society.
“The idea is to starve the beast that’s feeding the finning process,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D., Union), a sponsor of the bill.
But New Jersey fishing industry representatives argue that they should not have to throw away part of their profit if they catch the sharks lawfully. They are particularly concerned about losing profits from the sale of the spiny dogfish, a small shark common in Atlantic coastal waters. Fins contribute up to 30 percent of the profit from the fish, said Scot Mackey, a lobbyist with the Garden State Seafood Association.
“We can all go to a pet store and buy a pig’s ear ... or a cow’s nose for our dog to chew on,” Wayne Reichle, vice president of Lund’s Fisheries in Cape May, said at the hearing. If a shark is caught legally and people want to use the fins in soup, he asked, “why shouldn’t people be able to enjoy that?”
Lesniak, who sits on the Senate Economic Growth Committee, which heard the bill Monday, held off on a vote. He said he wanted to gather more support for the bill, which is also sponsored by Sen. Christopher Bateman (R., Somerset).
Hawaii and West Coast states have banned sale and trade of shark fins, Schatzmann said. Illinois’ legislature passed a bill banning the practice this week, and Delaware and New York are considering bans. Pennsylvania does not ban the sale of shark fins.
Tigers would be more closely monitored under a bill headed for a vote in the Assembly. The aim of the bill, which already passed the Senate, is to prevent the big cats from being sold for slaughter.
Tiger parts can be sold for up to $100,000, more than the $15,000 estimated selling price of a live tiger, according to the Humane Society.
New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, already bans ownership of exotic wildlife as pets. And the Pennsylvania House unanimously passed a bill this year that would ban people from owning animals such as tigers as pets, said Jerry Feaser, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The bill is now in a Senate committee.
The bill in New Jersey would require all tigers to have microchips implanted under their skin for tracking. It would also require tiger owners to provide the state with extensive records on the animals, including pictures, weight, and fur samples. When a tiger dies, the owner would be required to deliver the whole body to a state-approved regulator.
There are 26 captive tigers in New Jersey, most of them at Six Flags Great Adventure, where they are carefully monitored and cared for, Schatzmann said. The bill won’t help tigers sold out of state, but it’s designed as a model that supporters hope other states will adopt.
“We’re trying to set an example here for the rest of the country and the rest of the world to stop the trade,” Lesniak said.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are just 3,200 tigers remaining in the wild worldwide.
The bill was inspired in part by the fate of two dozen tigers at a sanctuary in Jackson. The Tigers Only Preservation Society came under fire after one of the cats escaped in 1999. The state found that the tigers were kept in crowded, inhumane conditions, and it shut down the facility in 2003. The tigers were shipped to a sanctuary in Texas.
But the Texas sanctuary went belly-up in 2010, said Bill Nimmo, a New Jerseyan who used to visit the tigers in Jackson and who testified before the Assembly panel this week.
Nimmo, who could not be reached for comment Friday, went to Texas in September and found only seven tigers remained. The others had been sold or euthanized, he said.
“Most of them had been sold into the trade,” he testified before the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. “This is a real problem that exists in this country and I was completely unaware of it.”
Nimmo, with help from a lawyer, obtained custody of the remaining tigers and had them released to two sanctuaries in Florida and North Carolina. He pays for their food and care, he testified.
“They will live their lives out there; they can’t be killed or taken away,” he told the panel.
New Jersey pig owners would be barred from keeping pregnant sows in gestation crates under a bill heard in a Senate committee. Gestation crates typically measure two feet by seven feet; they’re too small to allow pigs to move or turn around, Schatzmann said. Sows are kept locked up for the entirety of their four-month pregnancies, then are quickly reinseminated and locked back up, she said. The crating, done to maximize the number of animals that can be held together, hurts the pigs physically and psychologically. Studies show pigs live longer when they’re permitted to roam during the bulk of their pregnancies, Schatzmann said.
Eight states have banned gestation crates. Pennsylvania allows the practice.
The New Jersey Senate Economic Growth Committee is expected to vote on the bill in June.
Contact Joelle Farrell at 856-779-3237, email@example.com, or follow on Twitter at @joellefarrell.
To view a Humane Society of the United States video advocating a ban on gestation crates for pigs, go to www.philly.com/pigcrates