Environmental Policy News

Court Upholds California Shark Fin Ban

In an opinion filed 27 July 2015 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, federal judges ruled agains the Chinatown Neighborhood Association and the Asian Americans for Political Advancement who sought to overturn California’s Shark Fin Law, which makes it ”unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin” in the state.

The state was joined in defending the Shark Fin Law by the Humane Society of the United States, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation; and the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance.

In summary, “The panel rejected plaintiffs’ claim that the Shark Fin Law is preempted by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The panel held that plaintiffs failed to identify any actual conflict between federal authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to manage shark fishing in the ocean off the California coast and the California Shark Fin Law. The panel further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by failing to sua sponte grant plaintiffs leave to amend so they could plead additional facts to support the preemption claim. The panel held that even assuming that plaintiffs preserved the argument for appeal, leave to amend would be futile.

“The panel rejected plaintiffs’ claim that the Shark Fin Law is per se invalid under the Commerce Clause because it interferes with the interstate commerce in shark fins. The panel held that even when state law has significant extraterritorial effects, it passes Commerce Clause muster when, as here, those effects result from the regulation of in- state conduct. The panel further determined that the Shark Fin Law does not interfere with activity that is inherently national or that requires a uniform system of regulation, and that, accordingly, there is no significant interference with interstate commerce.”

To read the full opinion, click here.

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