NOAA 2002-018
Contact: Susan Buchanan
NOAA News Releases 2002
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs

Wasteful Practice Now Prohibited Throughout U.S.

The federal ban on shark finning has been extended to the Pacific Ocean by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The new regulations, effective March 13, 2002, implement the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000. The regulations make it unlawful for any federally regulated fishing vessel to carry or land shark fins without the entire shark carcass.

This prohibition on shark finning in the Pacific Ocean will immediately reduce waste of shark meat and will also prohibit foreign vessels from landing fins in U.S. ports without corresponding shark carcasses.

"Today's action is another indicator of this Administration's commitment to the conservation of marine resources," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. "Wasteful fishing practices can lead to devastation of vital living marine resources and economic hardship for the fishermen and communities that rely on the long-term, sustained use of these resources."

Finning – the practice of cutting off the fins and throwing the remainder of the shark overboard – is prohibited under state regulations on the West Coast, in a number of Atlantic states and Hawaii and has been prohibited in federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea since 1993.

In 2000, Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and enacted the Shark Finning Prohibition Act out of concern about the status of shark populations and the effects of heavy shark fishing. The intent of the act is to eliminate the wasteful practice of killing sharks only for their fins.

The U.S. ban is also consistent with international agreements to better manage shark populations, including the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Plan of Action for Sharks, and the United Nation's Agreement on Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Species.

The life history characteristics of sharks, including slow growth, late sexual maturity and the production of few young, make them particularly vulnerable to overfishing and necessitate careful management of shark fisheries.

In 1991, the percentage of sharks killed by U.S. longline fisheries in the Pacific Ocean for finning was approximately 3 percent. By 1998, that percentage had grown to 60 percent. Between 1991 and 1998, the number of sharks retained by the Hawaii-based swordfish and tuna longline fishery had increased from 2,289 to 60,857 annually, and by 1998, an estimated 98 percent of these sharks were killed for their fins.

Shark fins comprise only between 1 percent and 5 percent of the weight of a shark, and finning results in a 95 to 99 percent waste (by weight).

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service 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.

To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit