Shark fin ban moving through Florida legislature

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Two bills are moving through the state legislature that may impact shark conservation in Florida.

Shark-finning is the process of cutting the fins off of live sharks, then dumping the fish back in the water and leaving them to drown or bleed to death. It was prohibited nationally in 2000 through the Shark Finning Prohibition Act by then-president Bill Clinton.

But now, two companion bills in Florida – HB 401 and SB 680 from Rep. Kristin Jacobs (D-Coconut Creek) and Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) – are planning to ban the possession and sale of shark fins on a state level. The bills aim to the move the lucrative shark fin industry out of the Sunshine State by banning the import and exports of shark fins.

Researchers, however, are hoping for a better solution – one that would better serve long-term shark sustainability.

“There’s really no need to eliminate the domestic industry because it’s already under heavy regulation,” Dr. Robert Hueter, the director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory, said. “It is true that there is a problem there and we don’t want to allow fins that have been acquired through the wrong way to come through the U.S.”

Hueter points to the Sustainable Shark Fisheries and Trade Act of 2019, brought for federal legislation by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), which aims to heavily monitor their origin of shark fin imports.

According to research by Hueter, total trade in shark products was valued at $438.6 million for the fins internationally in 2011.

While a handful of states have enacted similar laws, New Jersey was the most recent, approving a bill last month.

With more than 40 years in the fishing industry and experience in marine law enforcement, Maderia Beach-based fisherman David Campo is eager to look at the amendments included in the state’s two bills.

“I want to look over the amendment to the bill and talk with NOAA more, which I’ve been in touch with,” said Campo. “We’re going back and forth to try and figure out exactly what they want to do which includes a study with MOTE on the topic.”

Campo uses 90 percent of the shark he catches to ensure minimal waste.

For now, Florida’s SB 680 has a scheduled hearing in the Rules Committee. HB 401 will see a second reading in the House.

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