Seven Fishing Associations File An Amici Brief to U.S. Supreme Court in Shark Fin Lawsuit

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Seven fishing associations have filed an amici brief in support of overturning California's shark fin possession ban, arguing that it directly affects sustainably federally managed shark species.

The California shark fin ban directly conflicts with the basic purpose of commercial fishing – allowing commercial fishermen to possess, and to place in the stream of domestic and international commerce, legally harvested fish.

Seven fishing associations have filed an amici brief in support of the Plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari in Chinatown Neighborhood Association, et al. v. Kamala D. Harris, which seeks to overturn California’s shark fin possession ban. The Sustainable Fisheries Association, Rhode Island Fisherman’s Alliance, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, Garden State Seafood Association, North Carolina Fisheries Association, Virginia Seafood Council and America Scallop Association take the position that the ban frustrates the purpose of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).

The Plaintiffs’ suit claims California’s shark fin law directly affects the fisheries of abundant, sustainably federally managed shark species such as Atlantic spiny dogfish and winter skate. According to the brief, “The California shark fin ban directly conflicts with the basic purpose of commercial fishing – allowing commercial fishermen to possess, and to place in the stream of domestic and international commerce, legally harvested fish.”

The brief argues that the California law conflicts with commercial fishing regulations that are governed and sanctioned by the MSA and should be preempted by the federal law. Commercial fishermen may catch Atlantic spiny dogfish and winter skate but the ban outlaws the fins from those legally caught sharks from being possessed in or shipped through California. According to the brief, this arrangement “creates an impermissible conflict by frustrating a primary purpose of MSA.”

The fishing associations argue that the law also conflicts with existing treaties between the United States and foreign countries by stopping fins from sharks like Atlantic spiny dogfish and skate at the California border, barring access to the ports and airports of California and ultimately prohibiting commercial fishermen from conducting foreign trade. The suit considers this a direct assault on the MSA and lawful businesses.

According to the brief, “the shark fin possession ban is not only ‘an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress’…but it frustrates treaties and overtly blocks international trade,” and harms the members of the fishing associations.

View a PDF of the amici brief

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Bob Vanasse
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