Huffman to NOAA: Don’t Interfere with State Laws Banning Shark Finning
WASHINGTON—Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today led a bipartisan congressional letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration urging the agency to revise a proposed rule that could undermine state bans on buying or selling shark fins. Huffman’s letter was cosigned by 61 Members of Congress, and is supported by 18 prominent and national conservation organizations, including Oceana and the Humane Society of the United States.
Shark finning is a major contributor to the accelerating decline in global shark populations. Experts estimate that between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed every year to supply the global demand for shark fins. As a state legislator, Huffman was the author of a landmark bill that bans the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins in California, one of the state and territorial laws that would be undermined by the proposed federal rule.
"Shark populations around the world are in serious decline, and this is no time to undermine the progress that California and other states are making in preventing the destructive practice of shark finning,” Congressman Huffman said. “The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but unsustainable and incredibly wasteful.”
“Congress put an end to shark finning in U.S. waters. And now states are trying to do their part to shut down the shark fin trade, which drives the overexploitation of sharks worldwide,” said Beth Lowell, Campaign Director, Oceana. “Once again, Congress is standing up to protect sharks by urging the National Marine Fisheries Service to withdraw a problematic rule on the state fin trade bans. The Representatives signed on to this letter know that sharks belong swimming in our oceans, not chopped up in our soup.”
“To their credit, more than a half dozen major coastal states have enacted laws to crack down on the cruel and unnecessary practice of shark finning,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “These laws represent policy-making at its best, and the Obama Administration should revise its rulemaking that could preempt these laws and turn back the clock on shark finning.”
Organizations endorsing this letter include: Oceana, Shark Savers, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters (LCV), National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Humane Society International, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE), Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Aquarium, Animal Welfare Institute, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Marine Conservation Institute, WildAid, and EarthJustice.
The text of the letter may be found below or HERE:
July 9, 2013
Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting Administrator
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Dr. Sullivan,
We are writing to ask that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) withdraw the provision to preempt state shark fin trade laws in its proposed rule to amend regulations under the Moratorium Protection Act and Magnuson-Stevens Act to implement provisions of the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 [Docket No. 111014628-3329-01]. While we support the Service’s actions to implement the Shark Conservation Act, which established the U.S. as a leader in global shark conservation and recovery, we are very concerned that the preemption provision undermines valid and essential state and territorial statutes.
Shark finning is a major contributor to the accelerating decline in global shark populations. Experts estimate that between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed every year to supply the global demand for shark fins. Within the proposed rule, NMFS would preempt state and territorial statutes that are designed to combat finning by prohibiting the possession, sale, and distribution of detached shark fins after the point of landing. The preemption provision in the draft rule would take away a much-needed tool to protect and recover dwindling shark populations.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act’s shark finning provisions, as most recently amended by the Shark Conservation Act of 2010, address the landing and possession of sharks and shark fins at sea and in our federal waters. The Act was not constructed to directly address the trade in detached and processed shark fins within the United States. Addressing this trade is vital, as there is currently no global mechanism in place that requires detailed record keeping on species, origin, and chain of custody for shark fins. It is almost impossible to tell, further down the chain of consumer demand, whether a shark fin or shark fin product came from a federally managed legal fishery, or was imported from a country with little or no regulations on shark finning.
There are a growing number of state and territorial statutes that are designed to address the problem of finning by reducing the demand for shark fin products. These statutes address the market for sale of products made from shark fins, and do not attempt to regulate fishing practices or fisheries management. This is not a conflict of interest, and is well within the jurisdiction and authority of the States to regulate. The Magnuson-Stevens Act clearly states that “. . . nothing in this Act shall be construed as extending or diminishing the jurisdiction or authority of any State within its boundaries.” 16 U.S.C. 1856(a)(1).
If we are to address the problem of shark-finning head on, we must allow state and territorial statutes to complement the federal regulations and further the U.S. leadership in global shark conservation. We urge you to withdraw the preemption provision in the proposed rule, and look forward to your reply.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Undersigned Members of Congress