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Shark Conservation in the United States and Abroad

 
NOAA scientists tag a sandbar shark during a research cruise. Credit: NOAA Teacher at Sea.

Recent Updates

In May 2013, NOAA Fisheries also proposed a rule to implement the domestic provisions of the Shark Conservation Act that prohibits any person from removing shark fins at sea or possessing, transferring, or landing shark fins unless they are naturally attached to the corresponding carcass. This rule was recently finalized and brings U.S. domestic shark fisheries into compliance with the requirements of the Shark Conservation Act of 2010.

The final rule allows for sustainably managed shark fisheries while eliminating the harmful practice of finning. The proposed rule included a statement about preemption of state laws. We included this language because eleven states and territories have enacted their own shark fin laws, and 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. During our discussions with the majority of those states, we determined that the state laws do not conflict with the Magnuson-Stevens Act. As a result of those discussions and based on public comments, we removed preemption language from the final rule.

Read more about the Shark Conservation Act and this final rule.

 

Leading the Way in Shark Conservation

In the United States, federal law prohibits “shark finning,” a process of removing shark fins at sea and discarding the rest of the shark. This practice has been prohibited by federal law since 2000, but shark conservation was further strengthened in 2010 when Congress passed the Shark Conservation Act. The Shark Conservation Act requires that all sharks in the United States, with one exception, be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.

In June 2016, NOAA Fisheries published a final rule to implement the domestic provisions of the Shark Conservation Act. The final rule, which mirrors the language in the Shark Conservation Act, prohibits any person from removing shark fins at sea or possessing, transferring, or landing shark fins unless they are naturally attached to the corresponding carcass. This rule brings U.S. domestic shark fisheries into compliance with the requirements of the Shark Conservation Act of 2010.

The Shark Conservation Act amended the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the federal law governing the conservation and management of federal fisheries. Along with the suite of conservation and management measures required of all federal fisheries, including shark fisheries, by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the new additions from the Shark Conservation Act sets the United States apart as a leader in the sustainable management of domestic shark fisheries and the global conservation of sharks. The United States has some of the strongest shark management measures worldwide. In addition to prohibiting shark finning in the United States, we continue to promote our fins naturally attached policy overseas. NOAA Fisheries works within regional fisheries management organizations and other international bodies to get international shark conservation and management measures approved.

2013 was marked by a historic conservation milestone for sharks globally. At the 2013 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties meeting in Bangkok, countries agreed to increase protection for five commercially-exploited species of sharks. NOAA Fisheries played a key role in the development and adoption of these proposals. Read more

Sustainably Managing U.S. Shark Populations

NOAA Fisheries works with U.S. regional fishery management councils, commercial and recreational fishermen, academics, environmentalists, and others to conserve and sustainably manage domestic shark fisheres in both the Atlantic Ocean, including Gulf of Mexico and Carribean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean. By conducting research, assessing stocks, working with U.S. fishermen, and implementing restrictions when necessary, NOAA Fisheries sustainably manages shark populations. For overfished shark stocks, NOAA Fisheries applies management measures to rebuild the stock. Sustainably managed shark fisheries provide opportunities for both commercial and recreational fishermen.


Bull shark swimming.