This spring, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Spiny Dogfish Management Board started the process of bringing the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for spiny dogfish into alignment with the Shark Conservation Act (SCA) of 2010. The SCA was signed into law in January 2011 and was meant to address loopholes in the Shark Finning Prohibition Act (SFPA) of 200. The SCA requires sharks (except the smoothhound shark complex) be landed with their fins naturally attached in an effort to address growing worldwide concern over the practice of shark-finning. Under the current Spiny Dogfish FMP, spiny dogfish may be processed at sea, including having their fins removed.
In order to bring the Spiny Dogfish FMP and the SCA into line, ASMFC drafted an addendum to the spiny dogfish FMP. The draft addendum was recently made public, and public comment is encouraged through 30 September. Final action on the addendum will be taken at the ASMFC Annual Meeting in October.
The draft addendum reads:
Removing any fin of spiny dogfish at sea is prohibited (including the tail). All spiny dogfish must be landed with fins-naturally-attached to the corresponding carcass. Gutting and processing fish at-sea is permitted, so long as the fins remain attached by a portion of uncut skin.
While spiny dogfish finning, defined as removing a fin or fins and then returning the remainder of the shark to the sea, is prohibited in state waters, the current FMP allows spiny dogfish to be processed at sea. This includes removing fins so long as the carcass is retained and the unattached fins are landed “in proportion to the carcasses.” A maximum fin-to-carcass ratio of 5-to-95 (wet weight of fins to dressed weight of carcasses) is specified in the current FMP. The 5-to-95 ratio is consistent with the SFPA of 2000 but not with the more recent SCA. Maine, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia already require landing all species of sharks with fins naturally-attached. A recent law passed in Massachusetts excluded spiny dogfish from a similar shark-finning law.
Federal fisheries managers have already taken action to come into compliance with the SCA. In May 2013 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries drafted a proposed rule to implement the Act. A final rule has not yet been published, but the proposed rule prohibits, among other things, removing fins at sea, possessing unattached fins on board a fishing vessel, transferring or receiving unattached fins at sea, landing unattached fins, and landing finless sharks. In all cases, the fins are required to be naturally attached.
In addition to the draft addendum, The ASMFC Spiny Dogfish Management Board approved a 5,000 pound commercial possession limit on spiny dogfish for the northern region, which includes Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. This is a 1,000 pound increase and will be effective 8 September 2014. The commercial possession limit in federal waters was also recently increased to 5,000 pounds.