In 2010, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act into law closing loopholes in the existing law and required that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached, and prohibiting sharks from being landed with their fins detached.  Now, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has proposed regulations to undermine and weaken this requirement. NMFS has also included text referring to the potential for federal law to preempt or overturn recent shark fin trade bans that have been passed by state legislatures around the country.  This text should be eliminated form the proposed ruling.

Despite management efforts in our waters and abroad, many shark populations are still in peril by overfishing and many species are threatened with extinction.  One of the largest threats sharks face around the world is overexploitation driven by the insatiable demand for shark fins in shark fin soup.  Currently seven US states and two US territories have implemented bans to prohibit the possession, trade, and sale of shark fins within the last few years, sending the message that consumers want these products off the market.  Many other states on the Eastern seaboard are currently following suit to protect sharks domestically and abroad. The state shark fin trade bans do not interfere with US fishermen and does not interfere with the federal fisheries management process.  These state measures are necessary to address an international problem.

  We demand that NMFS withdraw this portion of the proposed rule for these reasons:

1.  It is inappropriate to issue regulations before understanding the full environmental and economic impacts of the proposed action.  NMFS has admitted that this information is still being gathered.

2.  It is inappropriate to issue vague regulations about potentially preempted state laws without explicitly identifying specific laws in question.  These decisions should be left up to the courts if and when these conflicts arise. 

3.  It is inappropriate to issue this warning to the states, as it is legal for states to implement laws that go above and beyond federal requirements. 

 For these reasons, the NMFS must withdraw this portion of the proposed rule and initiate a separate process aimed at gathering the appropriate information addressing the fin trade. We urge that the proposed rule be withdrawn because it is outside the scope and in contradiction to the spirit of the Shark Conservation Act.  Finalizing this text would undermine past shark conservation work reducing the demand for the import and re-export of shark fins, which in turn has a direct impact on the health of shark populations and our oceans.

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