The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has officially upheld Hawaii’s state shark fin ban.

Eileen Sobeck, the agency’s assistant administrator for fisheries, conveyed that message in a March 9 letter to Carty Chang, acting director for the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.

DLNR confirmed Thursday that it received the letter.

In December, then Land Board Chairman William Aila had asked NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service about potential preemption of Hawaii’s law. The law makes it illegal to possess, sell, trade or distribute shark fins.



Sobeck told Carty last month that her agency agreed with Hawaii’s finding that the state law will have “minimal impact on federally managed fishermen” in Hawaii and does not “unlawfully burden them.”

NOAA had previously challenged state shark fin bans, suggesting that federal fisheries law might overrule the state laws.

Hawaii, the first state to enact a state-based ban on the possession and trade of shark fins, was the last to receive approval.

Oceana, an international ocean conservation and advocacy organization, is pleased with the ruling.

“NOAA’s decision to recognize state shark fin trade bans is critical. By blocking the trade of shark fins imported and exported in the U.S., we help reduce the global demand for fins,” Oceana’s vice president for U.S. oceans, Jacqueline Savitz, told Civil Beat via email. “The trade of shark fins is what drives the cruel and unsustainable practice of shark finning. It is estimated that up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, to supply demand for the Chinese delicacy shark fin soup.”

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