Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NOAA Retreats From Preemption Position in 3 States

Guest Blog
by AJ Sablan

Big news from the United States today.  The Obama Administration and NOAA have retreated from their attempt to overturn the shark fin trade bans in California, Maryland, and Washington.  The deadline to comment on this issue ended on July 31, 2013, so it took just over 6 months to make a decision on these first three states.   No timeline has been announced for the remaining eight states and territories with shark fin trade bans, but there have been reports that consultations with the territories will take place in March.

The press release from NOAA has some very concerning language that makes me wonder if this whole issue was one giant misunderstanding.  According to NOAA, " eleven states and territories have enacted their own shark finning laws, each of which takes a slightly different approach to shark conservation and management."

That is an amazingly incorrect statement.  I've written about shark finning here, here, here, here, and here.  Shark finning is about handling and utilization of sharks.  It determines how a shark is killed, not how many.  The state and territorial laws ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark, not shark finning.  By legislating a reduction in the trade in sharks, fewer sharks will be killed.

The focus now moves to the remaining 8 states with shark fin trade bans, but we all know that the real showdown will be in Hawaii, which has the strongest law and no exemptions.

The Guardian wrote about the impending preemption last Thursday and followed up with the new announcement today.  HSI and HSUS applauded the decision in a press release.


Edward Dorson said...

I'm glad to see this blog by AJ Sablan pointing out some of the not-so-wonderful language that accompanied NOAA's announcement to not preempt the fin bans of the three states. All shark advocates should remain equally vigilant about NOAA's stance regarding the fin bans in the U.S. Territories and remaining states.

Here's an insightful view of the NOAA announcement from NRDC's Seth Atkinson, one of the lawyers who successfully argued for the decision supporting California's ban in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (the "Chinatown" appeal): "NOAA Learns How to Cooperate on Shark Fins"

While this outcome on Maryland, Washington and California is very welcome, the second half of Seth's blog examines "the limited nature" of NOAA's recent concession.

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