After months of public campaigning and pressure by Oceana and other conservation groups, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has officially backed down from a proposal that would undermine bans on the sale of shark fins in Washington, Maryland and California. NOAA has not yet ruled on other states, or clarified whether it will drop disturbing language in a new shark fishing rule.
During the past two years, the growing national movement to protect sharks has gained tremendous momentum, with eight states passing bans on the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins. As a result, Oceana estimates that these state bans will reduce shark fin imports into the United States by about 68 percent.
But last year NOAA came out with a proposed rule as part of its implementation of the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 that would have overruled the state bans, claiming these bans may interfere with U.S. fisheries management. But environmental groups like Oceana, and more than 60 members of Congress, disagreed with this logic, arguing the state bans actually complement federal law by addressing the trade of fins on land, while the federal Shark Conservation Act regulates the practice of shark finning in federal waters.
It looks like NOAA is starting to agree.
On Tuesday, the federal agency sent letters to the state governments of Washington, Maryland and California, stating that each of their laws banning the trade of shark fins is consistent with federal law regulating fisheries in the U.S., and therefore will not be preempted.
It is estimated the barbaric process of shark finning, slicing off a shark’s fins and throwing the live shark back overboard to supply the demand for shark fin soup, is the leading cause of nearly 100 million shark deaths every year, decreasing some shark populations by as much as 99 percent.
Oceana will keep the pressure on to ensure that NOAA will do the right thing and act similarly in the other five states that have passed shark fin legislation and any others that do so in the future. Only by banning shark fins and decreasing demand can the U.S. end the overexploitation of sharks worldwide.