Sharks are among the ocean's top predators and are vital to the natural balance of marine ecosystems. They are also a valuable recreational species and food source. To help protect these important marine species, the United States has some of the strongest shark management measures worldwide. Under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), NOAA Fisheries manages sharks in U.S. federal waters using fishery management plans.
The Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 amended the MSA to prohibit shark finning—a process of removing shark fins at sea and discarding the rest of the shark—in the United States. The law prohibits any person under U.S. jurisdiction from engaging in the finning of sharks, possessing shark fins aboard a fishing vessel without the corresponding carcass, and landing shark fins without the corresponding carcass. The Shark Finning Prohibition Act also requires NOAA Fisheries to provide Congress with an annual report describing our efforts to implement the law.
On January 4, 2011, the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 was signed into law, amending the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act and the MSA. The Shark Conservation Act requires that all sharks in the United States, with one exception, be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached. There are three rules that implement the requirements of the Shark Conservation Act:
Savings clause for individuals who commercially fish for smooth dogfish.
Domestic provisions that allow for sustainably managed shark fisheries while eliminating the harmful practice of finning.
Several states have shark fin laws that prohibit the possession and/or retention of shark fins (even if they are legally landed under the requirements of the Shark Conservation Act). Based on discussions with these states and information provided to NOAA Fisheries, we do not believe these state laws conflict with the MSA. Learn more in our exchange of letters with 10 states and territories: