H.R. 81 Senate Amendments: Shark Conservation Act of 2009

H.R. 81

Shark Conservation Act of 2009

Sen. Bernard Sanders

December 21, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 81 on Tuesday, December 21, 2010, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  H.R. 81 was introduced by Delegate Bordallo (D-GU) on January 6, 2009.  The bill was approved by the House on March 2, 2009, by voice vote.  On December 20, 2010, the bill was approved by the Senate, with an amendment, by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary


H.R. 81 would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to identify nations whose fishing vessels have engaged in activities that directly target or accidentally catch sharks.  In addition, the bill would prohibit fisherman from removing any shark fins at sea, having a fin aboard a fishing vessel that is not attached to the carcass, or transferring a fin from one vessel to another unless it is naturally attached to a shark.  H.R. 81 would stipulate that finning would be illegal if, after returning to port, the total weight of shark fins (including tails) on a vessel exceeds 5 percent of the total weight of shark carcasses on the vessel.


The Senate Amendment to H.R. 81 would exempt portions of fish stocks covered by the U.S.-Canada Transboundary Resource Sharing Understanding from the current ten-year fish stock rebuilding timeline requirement.  Under the legislation, exempted portions of fish stocks would still be required to end overfishing immediately and to ensure that catch levels allow for stock rebuilding to continue, though not subject to the ten-year timeline.


The Senate Amendment to H.R. 81 would alter the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act (PL 109-479) to stipulate that commissioners on the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean would be treated as federal employees for purposes of injury compensation or tort claims liability.  The bill would also amend the Pacific Whiting Act Of 2006 to reduce the number of scientific experts appointed by the Secretary of Commerce under the bill from up to 12 to no more than two. 


Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, NOAA works to rebuild overfished shark stocks.  To that end, the U.S. recently enacted a ban on shark finning that prohibits any person under U.S. jurisdiction from engaging in shark finning and possessing shark fins harvested on board a U.S. fishing vessel without the corresponding carcasses.  According to NOAA, the U.S. has participated in shark management meetings with Japan, Spain, Taiwan, the European Union, Canada, China, and Mexico.  While shark conservation efforts have been conducted in the past, NOAA contends that some vessels have engaged in the process of removing shark fins at sea and releasing the shark’s carcass, thus avoiding restrictions on shark harvesting while still retrieving the valuable fin.  H.R. 81 would tighten laws regarding shark conservation by requiring NOAA to publicly identify any nation whose fishing vessels are actively engaged in fishing activities that target sharks and would prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea. 

The House considered similar legislation (H.R. 5741) in the 110th Congress.  The bill was approved by the House by voice vote on July 30, 2007.  According to a CBO score for H.R. 5741, the bill would impose a private sector mandate by requiring shark fins on fishing vessels to be naturally attached to shark carcasses.  CBO estimated that the mandate would fall below the $141 million threshold established by the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) for private sector mandates.  In addition, CBO estimated that H.R. 5741 would cost $1 million annually for NOAA to expand their existing fishing reports.  The bill was approved by the House again in the 111th Congress by voice vote on March 2, 2009.  The bill was then amended in the Senate to include titles II and III and was approved in the Senate on December 20, 2010, by unanimous consent.


A CBO cost estimate for the Senate Amendments to H.R. 81 was not available as of press time.