9th Circ. Considers Preemption Argument Under Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act


State legislation imposing economic conditions that may have an extraterritorial impact outside the state is not, for that reason alone, invalid under the Commerce Clause.  Unless the state legislation somehow discriminates in favor of in-state commerce or imposes a significant burden on interstate commerce, it will not be held invalid as a violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

On July 27, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considered a claim that 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 of California,  is preempted by the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and also conflicts with the Commerce  Clause because it interferes with interstate commerce in shark fins.  The case is Chinatown Neighborhood Association, et al., v. Harris.

California imposed the ban to protect  sharks from the depredations of excessive harvesting, which had severely depleted the numbers of these animals. However, the plaintiffs argued that the California law is preempted by the MSA because it interferes with the federal management of shark fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone.  This argument was rejected by the panel majority, which noted that the plaintiffs failed to identify any actual conflict between the MSA and the California statute.  Moreover, it concluded that there was no manifest intent on the part of the Congress to preempt the enactment and enforcement of such a law at the state level.