Florida and federal law prohibits “shark-finning at sea” but a March case from the Florida Keys seems to prove the practice continues.
A shrimp boat stopped at sea about 20 miles north of Key West reportedly reportedly carried between 60 and 80 shark fins, but no other product from the oceanic predator. Investigation into the case continues.
Harvesting some shark species is legal. However, catching a shark solely to remove its fins — considered an Asian delicacy — and throwing the rest of the shark off the boat and back into the water is banned under state and federal law. Live sharks returned to the water without their fins have no chance to survive.
“A person may not possess in or on the waters of [Florida] a shark fin that has been separated from a shark or land a separated shark fin,” says Florida law.
Once a shark is landed, the fins may be legally taken and sold.
The Florida Legislature this year passed SB 884 that increases penalties for shark-finning, but lawmakers dropped the main point of North Florida state Sen. Travis Hutson’s sponsored bill: Banning the sale or distribution of shark fins.
The Oceana conservation organization and the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) have launched campaigns to ban the sale of shark fins.
“To protect sharks, we need to end the demand for shark fins,” said Lora Snyder of Oceana. “Shark-finning is cruel and wasteful and it’s putting some shark species at risk of extinction.”
A California congressman, Rep. Ed Royce (R), in March introduced H.R. 1456, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2017. The bill remains alive and is awaiting committee action.
“The United States can set an example for the rest of the world by shutting down its market for shark fins, which are often harvested by leaving these animals to die a slow and painful death at the bottom of the ocean,” Royce said in a statement. “The bipartisan Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act is needed to eradicate shark-finning for good.”
DEMA, which hosts the world’s largest diving trade show this November in Orlando, urged its member businesses to tell congressional representatives to back Royce’s bill.
“Your business and the recreational diving industry are made stronger by divers’ ability to see these creatures in the wild,” DEMA advised.
“Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global market every year, and more than 70 percent of the most common shark species involved with the fin trade are considered at high or very high risk of extinction,” DEMA says.
“Shark watchers spend an estimated $314 million on shark eco-tourism every year, and researchers expect that to double to $780 million in 20 years,” Oceana said in a report. “According to a recent study, sharks are the top species U.S. scuba divers want to see, and they will pay $35 extra per dive to see a shark.”