Morgan Freeman comes to Capitol Hill to save the sharks

Morgan Freeman comes to Capitol Hill to save the sharks
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Morgan Freeman is trying to protect sharks from extinction.

Ahead of the Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week, the award-winning actor traveled to Capitol Hill on Thursday to push for greater protections for one of the deadliest creatures in the ocean.

Freeman joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers who introduced the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act.

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“Just as the ivory trade decimated elephant populations, and the rhino horn trade harms rhino populations, the shark fin trade really threatens shark populations. Trade in ivory and rhino horns is illegal in the United States, so why can’t we get some of the same protections in place for sharks,” Freeman asked at a news conference hosted by marine conservation group Oceana.

“I think it’s time for us to stand up and declare that the United States will no longer support this destructive practice.”

The bipartisan bill — backed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Second GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure MORE (R-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) — would ban the sale and purchase of shark fins in the United States. While harvesting fins is already banned in United States waters under a 2010 law, Freeman and the bill’s supporters said allowing sales in the country continues to create a market.

Oceana, the conservation group that is working with Freeman, said 73 million sharks are killed every year due to human activity. To harvest fins, workers usually cut the fins off the sharks and release them back to the ocean, where they’re certain to die, a process Oceana said is unnecessarily cruel.

“When they catch a shark, they hack the fins off while it’s still alive and dump it back into the sea, where it will drown, or bleed to death, or be eaten alive by other fish,” Freeman said. “It’s cruel, and it’s wasteful, and it is putting some shark species at risk of extinction.”

Gregorio Sablan (I), Congress’s non-voting delegate from the Northern Mariana Islands, said his islands’ native culture relies on harvesting sharks, but recognizes that finning is cruel and wasteful.

“By closing down the market for shark fins in America, we will reduce the economic incentive for killing sharks everywhere around the world,” Sablan, who’s an original co-sponsor of the bill, said at the event.

Royce, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the United States should set a worldwide example on shark finning, as it has on elephant ivory and rhino horn bans.

“When you look at what we’ve done in this country in order to set an example, leaving this market, continuing to create this demand, makes no sense,” he said.

Fourteen shark species are endangered, and Royce warned that without a further crackdown on finning, they’re certain to go extinct.