NOAA 2001-R120
Contact: Connie Barclay

Agency Also Seeking Input From Public on "Shark Finning" in State & Territorial Waters

Regulations have been proposed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to halt shark finning in federal waters. Shark finning involves cutting off the fins and discarding the remainder of the shark.

"Congress is concerned about the plight of declining shark populations and the effects of heavy fishing on them, and directed us to prohibit shark finning," said Acting Administrator for NOAA fisheries Bill Hogarth.

Existing regulations have prohibited shark finning in federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea since 1993. The proposed regulations would define the boundaries of the ban to be an area seaward of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone or basically 3 miles from shore out to beyond 200 miles. The ban would apply to all U.S. citizens and vessels. The new regulations would extend the ban to fisheries off the West Coast and in the Western Pacific.

There is an increasing international market for shark fins because the fins are highly valued in some cultures. Uncontrolled shark finning is a contributor to unsustainable shark harvests, as well as a waste of usable shark meat. The intent of Congress' action late last year to pass the Shark Finning Prohibition Act is to eliminate the wasteful and "unsportsmanlike" practice of shark finning.

The Shark Finning Prohibition Act was signed into law on December 21, 2000. The Act prohibits people under U.S. jurisdiction from: (1) engaging in shark finning at sea; (2) possessing shark fins aboard a fishing vessel without the corresponding carcass; or (3) landing shark fins without the corresponding carcass. The Act also requires the secretary of commerce to implement regulations consistent with the intent of the Act.

Under the draft proposal, NOAA fisheries regulations would prohibit people under U.S. jurisdiction from engaging in shark finning in international waters or federal waters. It also prohibits people under U.S. jurisdiction from possessing shark fins harvested in either international waters or federal waters without corresponding shark carcasses, or landing shark fins harvested in those areas without corresponding carcasses.

After consideration of public comment on the new shark finning regulations and other factors, the agency may move forward with additional regulations to halt shark finning in all state and territorial waters.

NOAA fisheries held a meeting in Hawaii and at their headquarters in Maryland to gather input for this proposal. The agency will be accepting comments on the proposal through July 30, 2001. Comments may be sent to: Dr. Rebecca Lent, Regional Administrator, Southwest Region, National Marine Fisheries Service, 501 W. Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802.

As a signatory nation to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, the U.S. has agreed that all nations and international fishery organizations should take action to ensure that shark populations are monitored, and fishery conservation measures are implemented to protect sharks from over-harvest. NOAA also is working with the State Department to develop international discussions and agreements on shark finning.

In February, NOAA released a national voluntary plan of action for the conservation of sharks which outlines concrete and specific steps to improve the management and protection of this species throughout the United States. The objective of the national plan is to develop measures that will better identify the status of, and improve the management of sharks on a national level. These measures include prioritizing research needs, improving identification and reporting methods, limiting fishing capacity and increasing outreach and education efforts. NOAA fisheries developed the national plan in coordination with scientific and technical experts from federal and state agencies, independent scientists and members of the public.

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our Nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.

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