ACTION ALERT: Stop the US Federal Government from Interfering with State Shark Fin Bans

Posted on June 17, 2013
Written by: Shark Savers
Tags: NMFS, National Marine Fisheries Service, Shark Conservation Act, shark fin trade bans   

Please send your comments to uphold the shark fin bans to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) before the newly extended July 31st deadline. See below for details.

MO-OWT-3280-96--220px.jpgBackground Information

In January 2011, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 (SCA) into law. The SCA amends the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA), the framework created to ensure that US fisheries are managed sustainably, to strengthen the MSA’s prohibition of shark finning (definition: removing a shark's fins and dumping the body at sea). The new SCA provisions prohibit landing of sharks' fins that are not naturally attached to the body and transshipment of fins, and encourages other countries to adopt comparable shark finning regulations. This May, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the US Federal Agency under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) responsible for ensuring that US fisheries are sustainably managed, proposed a rule to implement the provisions of the SCA.

The Issue

So far, this is all good… What is not good, however, is that NMFS has added language to this proposed rule, which would actually OVERTURN ("preempt") the ten US state and territory laws which prohibit the possession, distribution and trade of shark fins (Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, plus the New York law waiting to be signed into law by the Governor).


Implementing the provisions of the SCA is a good thing, which most, if not all, shark conservation advocates support --- PROVIDED NMFS removes the language which would preempt state and territory shark fin laws.

If you support the shark fin bans, now is the time to let NMFS know that you want them to remove this clause

A clear, concise summary of this important issue is available by listening to this short radio interview with a representative of Pew Charitable Trusts: NOAA proposed rule changes could see shark fishing return to U.S. Pacific states and territories.


Please submit comments to NMFS to let them know that you want them to remove any language that would result in the state and territory shark fin laws being overturned or undermined. Your personal comment carries a great deal of weight, so please take a moment to send one, even if it's just one or two sentences.

The following bullet points can help you write your statement: 

  • NMFS should NOT include text in the proposed rule to implement the Shark Conservation Act that would preempt the state and territory shark fin laws.
  • States and territories have the right to pass laws to prohibit the shark fin trade within their borders. In response to a 2012 challenge to California’s shark fin law, the US District Court, Northern District of California, confirmed that the state’s shark fin law was not preempted by federal law. The federal government should not force states and territories to participate in the shark fin trade.
  • Requiring states and territories to allow the shark fin trade only for fins from sharks caught in US federal waters would 1) likely be illegal as it would violate international trade laws by creating unfair trade barriers; and 2) create enormous burdens on state law enforcement agencies, which do not have the capacity to track the chain of custody for every shark fin.
  • The purpose of the Shark Conservation Act was “to adopt shark conservation measures, including measures to prohibit removal of any of the fins of a shark (including the tail) and discarding the carcass of the shark at sea”. It does not include language to prevent states from banning the sale of shark fins. In fact, US Representative, Madeleine Bordallo, who introduced the SCA bill in 2009, and two fellow Representatives, stated in their letter to NMFS, “We are concerned that the preemption provision in the NMFS’ draft rule would take away a much-needed tool that states and territories use to protect and recover dwindling shark populations”.
  • State and territory shark fin trade laws do not conflict with the Shark Conservation Act, but rather complement this federal law and facilitate enforcement. NMFS is going beyond the scope of implementing the Shark Conservation Act by attempting to interfere with these laws.
  • State and territory shark fin trade laws are not fishery laws, and do not conflict with fishing in federal waters. These laws address shark fin demand and trade within the state or territory, and in some cases include fishery measures that pertain only to that state or territory's waters.
  • State and territory shark fin trade laws were passed through democratic legislative process with overwhelming bi-partisan and public support. Each law incorporated extensive feedback from the public and includes provisions that reflect the unique needs of each state or territory and its citizens. A federal agency should not be allowed to circumvent the democratic process and the will of the People, by simply writing a rule.

The deadline to submit public comments has been extended to July 31st:

Use this link to go to the submission form:!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0092

Let's work together to make sure NMFS does not reverse important shark protections and set back years of united shark conservation work! 

Thank you!

The Shark Savers’ Team


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