Comment on changes to US Shark Finning Regulations

Posted on November 20, 2007
Written by: Shark Savers
Tags: I’m FINished with FINS Kampagne 

Shark finning, as you may know, is the practice of catching a shark, cutting off its fins, and discarding the rest of the body at sea. Some fishermen practice shark finning because the fins are worth up to hundreds of dollars per pound, whereas the shark meat is worth a fraction of that. The shark finners don't want to devote any space on the boat to less valuable shark carcasses. 

Shark finning was made illegal in the United States by the Shark Finning Prohibition Act, which was signed into law on December 21, 2000. While it doesn't stop shark finning by non-US fishermen in international waters, it is an important law.

The US Shark Finning law is in the process of being clarified by the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The current regulations require fisherman to bring to shore, or 'to land' the carcasses together with any shark fins, disallowing them from discarding the carcass at sea. However, fishermen are allowed to separate the fins from the bodies while at sea because it is easier to store and freeze the fish, provided that the weight of the fins do not exceed 5% of the weight of the carcasses at landing. Five percent is deemed to be the rough average of fin-to-body weight.

However, this regulation is considered too ambiguous or may lead to enforcement problems. A new Amendment to the law is pending that would require all fins to remain attached to the bodies. You can read more about the Amendment and the underlying law by going to the NMFS web site.

Before this new rule is enacted, it is open for comment until December 17, 2007. We think that anything that makes it easier to verify that sharks are not being finned is good. Below is the text of the email that we sent in support of this Amendment:

I am writing to support Amendment 2 to improve the clarity and enforceability of the law to stop shark finning. Shark finning is cruel and wasteful. Shark finning has also been associated with the indiscriminate and unregulated killing of sharks in larger numbers than they would otherwise be if the carcasses were landed together with the fins. Therefore, I appreciate all efforts to improve the clarity and enforceability of this important law.

I remain concerned about the continued overfishing of large coastal sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. While overfishing is not directly related to Amendment 2, it does speak to the underlying issue of protecting sharks from over-exploitation. I look forward to further news as to how existing regulations regarding shark fishing quotas and bycatch will be better enforced in the future.

We encourage you to write a comment of your own, before 5PM on December 17, 2007, to:

ShkA2@noaa.gov