Is the United States a world leader in shark conservation? You may have thought so, but it has proposed to majorly backtrack on recent progress. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is proposing a rule that has the potential to overturn the shark protections passed in ten states and territories.
The Shark Conservation Act of 2010 closed loopholes in the previous U.S. shark finning law by requiring that sharks be landed at port with their fins naturally attached to their bodies. To further protect sharks, some states and territories passed additional legislation. In most locations, these measures ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins. Implementing the provisions of the Shark Conservation Act should not be used to overturn state laws that are more protective than federal law.
The U.S. government should implement the Shark Conservation Act as intended, without undermining state conservation measures.
The latest scientific research estimates that approximately 100 million sharks are killed annually. Because sharks grow slowly, mature late, and produce few young, this level of fishing is unsustainable.
The United States has taken steps to reduce the overfishing of sharks both domestically and internationally, which is commendable. The Shark Conservation Act of 2010 closed loopholes that allowed shark finning to continue, and should, if implemented as intended, be a step forward in U.S. shark conservation. However, the proposed rule to implement the act, if approved as written, could overturn state laws that are more restrictive than the federal law.
Bans on shark fin trade in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Washington state, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands were enacted after considerable public input, in an effort to enhance existing U.S. shark protections. In most jurisdictions, these laws ban the possession, sale and trade of shark fins, thus preventing fins from finned or unsustainably caught sharks from being sold in their territory. Exemptions were made to meet the unique needs of each jurisdiction.
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The intent of the Shark Conservation Act was to protect sharks. Any rules to implement the federal law that result in overturning more restrictive state or territorial laws could put already stressed shark populations at additional risk. Please do not preempt and undermine shark fin bans of states and territories.
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