New Texas law further restricts shark “finning”

Shark finning is a cruel practice in which fins are cut from live sharks, which are then left to die


The Blue shark, listed as near Threatened under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, are one of the most commonly encountered sharks in the global fin trade
Mara Asmis

Wildlife and Wild Places Campaign Intern

On September 1, 2023, Texas Senate Bill 1839, which strengthens restrictions on shark finning, goes into effect.

Shark finning is a cruel practice in which the top, side, and tail fins are cut from live sharks to be sold and distributed. The immobile sharks are then disposed of in the ocean, where they die from suffocation, starvation, or blood loss. Overfishing of sharks, a species already vulnerable to extinction due to its low reproductive rate, has led to an estimated 71% decline in the shark population. Since shark fins are considered a valuable food delicacy in many cultures, shark finning continues to kill approximately 73 million sharks per year, and this continued loss of shark populations will be detrimental to marine ecosystems.  

In 2015, Texas passed a bill attempting to protect sharks from shark finning by prohibiting the sale, purchase, transport, and possession of fins with intent to sell. However, since it did not “clearly identify that noncompliance with the requirements identified is an offense in Section 66.2161, Parks and Wildlife Code”, as stated in SB 1839, the 2015 bill was difficult to enforce. 

There has since been a growing number of shark fin cases, and in 2022, nearly 400 shark fins were found at a San Antonio seafood restaurant and confiscated by Texas Game Wardens. The wardens, who enforce Texas Fish and Wildlife laws, were aided by their K9 helper, Bailey, who is trained in sniffing out shark fins. Although all of the fins could not be identified, some were blacktip sharks, which are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas Game Wardens pose with shark fins found at a San Antonio seafood restaurantPhoto by Texas Game Wardens | Public Domain

Only two years prior, Texas Game Wardens investigated and searched 10 Houston and Dallas restaurants for selling shark fins, and in 2019, the game wardens investigated Houston businesses responsible for buying and selling 30,000 pounds of shark fins. 

Texas Senate Bill 1839, by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, amends the current Parks and Wildlife code by clarifying specific restricted activities regarding the sale and purchase of shark fins. The bill requires that any shark fins be discarded or destroyed immediately upon possession, and failure to comply with this requirement is an offense. The amendment also clarifies that the sale, purchase, transport, and possession with intent to sell is an offense, as well, specifically a Class B Misdemeanor. 

While there is still much conservation work to be done to protect these ocean predators, SB 1839 is a positive step toward protecting sharks and all marine life.


Mara Asmis

Wildlife and Wild Places Campaign Intern

Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center

As the director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughter are working to visit every state park in Texas.

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