19 February 2014 A Step Forward for Sharks Posted by: Anne Russell Gregory | 5 comments | Share: This month, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) stepped back, in part, from an unnecessary battle against state efforts to protect sharks. It all began last May when NMFS issued draft regulations stating that the federal Shark Conservation Act (SCA) would preempt state bans on trade in shark fins. The agency clearly stepped in where it wasn’t its place because Congress never intended the SCA to deter states from taking a stronger stand to protect sharks from the fin trade. Nevertheless, NMFS jumped into the arena at the first sign of conflict without taking a hard look at the facts. If the agency had looked before it leaped, it would have seen that the state and federal laws govern different areas, can coexist without conflict, and are a good thing for both sharks and fisheries. Instead, NMFS’ stance on state-level shark fin trade bans may have deterred other states from enacting their own laws to protect the many threatened species of sharks. A NOAA agent counts confiscated shark fins (© NOAA) Defenders, along with other conservation groups, submitted comment letters throughout the spring and summer, expressing our concerns and laying out the legal arguments, demonstrating NMFS’ overreaching claims. The state laws ban trade in shark fins, while the SCA bans finning of sharks in federal waters. The state laws complement, rather than hinder, the federal law. NMFS finally saw the light, but don’t expect a “mea culpa” from the agency. It didn’t drop the issue, but rather gave state laws banning trade in shark fins in Maryland, Washington, and California the green light for now. Although in the end any protection for sharks is good news, we never should have had to fight this particular battle in the first place, and for this, NMFS doesn’t deserve a pat on the back. When NMFS issues the final regulations implementing the SCA, it should eliminate the preemption language altogether. We have a lot of work to do in the continual crusade to protect these apex predators, and we’re still a long way from sustainable management and recovery for sharks. The fight to protect sharks is even more critical now, with a new scientific report finding that 25% of the world’s shark and ray species are threatened with extinction. But hope is on the horizon as we sign on to support a bill in Hawaii that would make great strides in protecting sharks from cruel harm and harassment. (Note to NMFS – this bill only applies to state waters.) Anne Russell Gregory, Conservation Law & Endangered Species Coordinator 5 Responses to “A Step Forward for Sharks” Sean Truscott February 19th, 2014 The practice of cutting these sharks fins cut off is beyond cruel. They get their fins cut off then sink to the bottom of the ocean and die a long and horrible death. This practice needs to be halted. Reply luca February 19th, 2014 save sharks is an imperative for all of us Reply Billie Ó Dochertaigh February 20th, 2014 Sharks are vital for Our Oceans survival, without Sharks Our Oceans are doomed, without Our Oceans we are doomed! Reply kyle beddall March 19th, 2014 sad sharks are nature on our planet we neeed to stop Reply nevin October 15th, 2014 you are doing a great thing for the animals thanks so much Reply Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Westerners want to save the sage-grouse (and so do I) A majority of voters in western states want to see sage-grouse, the Sagebrush Sea and all its inhabitants protected. Defenders Celebrates Successful Listing of Sharks, Rays and Sawfish! Recently 21 imperiled species of sharks and rays gained international protection when they were added to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Refuges need relief Congress and the president must do a better job in providing for America’s National Wildlife Refuge System.