BALTIMORE — Maryland lawmakers have joined a handful of states in passing a ban on shark fin sales with a slight twist, crafting a measure that is supported by conservationists as well as a commercial fishing group.
Environmental groups have long pushed for shark fin bans, noting shark populations are being drastically reduced by the practice of finning. The practice involves leaving sharks to die after having their fins cut off for the lucrative trade in the Asian delicacy.
One trade group, however, argued that California’s more extensive ban hurts fishermen who catch spiny dogfish, a small shark also used for fish and chips that is sustainably harvested. The Maryland law exempts the shark species along with several others. Maryland’s law was supported by the Sustainable Fisheries Association, a Massachusetts nonprofit founded by four seafood processors.
John Whiteside, an attorney for the association, said other states should consider Maryland’s law as a model.
“This is the way to approach it. You account for the fisheries management plans that are in place and you work with federal and state regulatory agencies to craft something that doesn’t create an inherent conflict,” Whiteside said.
While fins account for 3 percent of a spiny dogfish, they represent nearly 40 percent of profits from sales, the association said.
In a posting to the Federal Register on a proposed rule stemming from the federal Shark Conservation Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service noted Thursday that state shark fin laws have the potential to undermine management of federal shark fisheries.
“Although state shark fin laws are also intended to conserve sharks, they may not unduly interfere with the conservation and management of federal fisheries,” the service said in its posting, which seeks comment on the proposed rule.
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