The America COMPETES Act Passes the House with Big Wins for Animals

A shark swims in the ocean as sunlight filters through the water.
Photo by Fiona Ayerst

Washington, DC—Thanks to the efforts of many members of Congress who support animal welfare, the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521), a bill aimed at bolstering US innovation, passed the House of Representatives today with several provisions that would benefit animals.

Among them:

Protections for Sharks: Although shark finning is illegal in US waters, it plays a significant role in perpetuating this barbaric trade by providing a market for shark fins. The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would prohibit the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States. This would remove America from the global shark fin trade and help restore healthy ocean habitats and shark populations.

Marine Mammal Conservation: Recognizing that marine mammals are important indicators of ocean health, the Marine Mammal Research and Response Act would fund efforts by local governments and nonprofit organizations to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals. It would also support research efforts to determine the causes of stranding events.

Reducing Bycatch: Large mesh driftnets are used to catch swordfish and thresher sharks. However, at more than a mile long, they also indiscriminately kill or severely injure many nontarget animals, including threatened and endangered marine species. The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act would phase out harmful large mesh drift gillnets used in federal waters off the coast of California — the only place they are still used in the United States.

Preventing Future Pandemics: Several provisions recognize the urgent need for a global approach to emerging zoonotic diseases and the threats they pose. Text from the Preventing Future Pandemics Act establishes as a US diplomatic priority working with international government and nongovernmental partners to shut down certain commercial wildlife markets and build coalitions to reduce the demand for wildlife. The bill also authorizes the government to undertake programs to help transition communities globally to safer, nonwildlife sources of protein. Furthermore, H.R. 4521 includes up to a three-year emergency ban on the importation of wildlife that pose imminent threats, including to human health, and prohibits the transportation across state lines of species listed as injurious under the Lacey Act. Learn more about how the America COMPETES Act Amends the Lacey Act.

Wildlife Trafficking: In addition to its provisions aimed at curbing the spread of zoonotic diseases, H.R. 4521 aims to fight wildlife trafficking more broadly. It requires the treasury secretary to conduct a study on global wildlife trafficking and its illicit profits, and authorizes $150 million annually until 2030 to expand the US Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement attaché program. This program uses criminal investigators to work with other nations to combat wildlife trafficking. H.R. 4521 also includes the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act, which would make it easier for the USFWS to prosecute wildlife trafficking cases and authorize harsher penalties for wildlife traffickers, provide antipoaching resources to countries in need, and address corruption by holding countries accountable for failing to observe international antitrafficking laws.

Additional wins under the America COMPETES Act include language aimed at strengthening fisheries management and funding for coral reef restoration.

In June, the Senate passed its version of this bill, the US Innovation and Competition Act (S.1260), which included the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act. The two chambers will now reconcile differences between their versions of the bill. The House and Senate will then vote on the final reconciled bill.

The Animal Welfare Institute applauds the inclusion of these important animal welfare provisions and urges Congress to retain them when finalizing this legislation.

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
margie@awionline.org, (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

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