U.S. Supreme Court Denies Challenge to California Shark Fin Ban

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

For Immediate Distribution

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Challenge to California Shark Fin Ban

California’s ban on the possession and sale of shark fins survived a third legal challenge Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by San Francisco Bay Area shark fin suppliers and sellers of shark fin soup, a traditional dish in the Chinese American community.

“Reducing the trade of illegally or unsustainably harvested shark fins is an important measure towards saving threatened and endangered shark species.  With this ruling, the supreme court has removed the final legal obstacle for the California State shark fin trade ban, and sends a strong message that sharks are important for ocean health and deserve protection,” said David McGuire Director of the shark conservation group Shark Stewards. Based in San Francisco, Shark Stewards helped introduce and lobbied for passage of the California Law.

Although shark finning is illegal in US waters, the Federal law does not forbid possessing or selling shark fins. Shark finning is the practice of cutting the fins off a living shark and discarding the shark’s body in the ocean, to suffer a cruel and wasteful death. Increasingly,  sharks are being over harvested,driven largely by the value of the fin. Shark fin is the primary ingredient for shark fin soup, a dish consumed in the Chinese cultural tradition.

Driven largely by the shark fin trade and overfishing, nearly one quarter of sharks and rays are Red Listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as threatened with extinction. To further protect endangered sharks, California lawmakers passed a statute that took effect in July 2013 making possession and sales of dried fins and removing shark fin soup from restaurant menus. Nine other US States have passed similar shark fin bans, and bills are currently deliberated in New Jersey and Rhode Island.

In the Supreme Court appeal, restaurant owners, shark fin suppliers and Chinese American community organizations argued the state is exceeding its authority and is interfering with a commercial fishing market.  In 2015 a federal appeals court in San Francisco rejected a challenge by two Asian-American groups to a California law that bans the possession and sale of detached shark fins within the state.  The Supreme Court denied review of the case without comment Monday.

“Stopping shark finning and over harvesting sharks for a luxury item is critical for saving some shark species like Hammerhead sharks from extinction,” said McGuire  “Through education, conservation and legislation like AB 376, Shark Stewards will continue to raise awareness about over harvesting sharks for the fin trade here in the United States and in Asia.”

More information can be found at SharkStewards.org

Contact Information

David McGuire david(at)sharkstewards.org