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Media Statement: NOAA Fisheries and states of California, Maryland and Washington determine that their shark fin laws are consistent

Contact:
Connie  Barclay
(301) 427-8003
(202) 441-2398 (Cell)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 4, 2014

NOAA Fisheries and the states of California, Maryland and Washington have agreed through an exchange of letters that their individual state shark fin laws are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. 

In the United States since 2000, federal law has prohibited “shark finning,” a process of removing shark fins at sea and discarding the rest of the shark.  But, shark conservation was further strengthened in 2010 when Congress passed the Shark Conservation Act, amending the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).  The Shark Conservation Act requires that all sharks in the United States, with one exception, be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.

NOAA published a proposed rule last spring to revise existing shark fishing regulations to be consistent with current law. NOAA’s proposed rule enables sustainably managed shark fisheries while eliminating the harmful practice of finning. The proposed rule included a statement about preemption of state laws, if those laws were inconsistent with the MSA. We included this language because eleven states and territories have enacted their own shark fin laws, each of which takes a slightly different approach to shark conservation and management. It was important for NOAA to confirm that these state laws did not restrict the possession of shark fins in a way that could create a problem for fishermen fishing legally for sharks in federal waters.

NOAA has been engaging in constructive discussions with these states about how both the state and federal laws may be interpreted to further the purposes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the state laws together.  We are pleased today to be able to share the results of these productive discussions with California, Maryland and Washington. We hope that we will be able to reach similar agreements with the remaining states.

Link to letters and more: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2013/07/7_15_13shark_conservation_us_and_abroad.html

Background:  Not only are sharks among the ocean’s top predators and vital to the natural balance of marine ecosystems, they are also a valuable recreational species and food source. To help protect these important marine species, the United States has some of the strongest shark management measures worldwide. NOAA Fisheries manages the commercial and recreational shark fisheries in federal waters the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and works with U.S. regional fishery management councils to conserve and sustainably manage sharks in the Pacific Ocean.

By conducting research, assessing stocks, working with U.S. fishermen, and implementing restrictions when necessary, we sustainably manage shark populations. For overfished shark stocks, we apply management measures to rebuild the stock to a healthy level. Sustainably managed shark fisheries provide opportunities for both commercial and recreational fishermen.

NOAA Fisheries also works with international organizations to get global shark conservation and management measures approved. In addition to prohibiting shark finning in the United States, we continue to promote our "fins naturally attached policy" overseas.