Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has hailed a federal district court decision upholding California’s ban on the possession or sale of shark fins, even as the CNMI, other states, and territories remain in discussion with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on a proposed rule on shark fishing that could preempt state and territorial laws.
On Jan. 27, 2011, the CNMI become the first U.S. territory to ban shark fins. It was inspired by Hawaii, the first U.S. state to make it illegal to possess, sell, or distribute shark fins. The CNMI, in turn, inspired Guam to also introduce a similar legislation.
Sablan said a federal district court in the Northern District of California held that the California ban does not conflict with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary federal law governing management of the nation’s fisheries.
“This is significant because the Commonwealth and 10 other U.S. states and territories have enacted similar laws,” Sablan said.
Last year, NOAA proposed a rule on shark fishing that could preempt these state and territorial laws. In response, Sablan joined Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California), who wrote the California shark fin law as a Member of the State Assembly, along with over 60 other members of Congress, to protest the proposal.
“NOAA has reached agreement with the states of Maryland, Washington, and California on how to conform local and federal law on this issue. NOAA reports that it is still in discussion with the Commonwealth and the remaining states and territories,” Sablan said.
Three years after the CNMI banned shark finning, the government has so far not caught or penalized anyone violating the law. The law prohibits possession, selling, offering for sale, trading, or distributing shark fins in the CNMI. It, however, allows catching of sharks for subsistence or non-commercial purposes.