Gov. Rick Scott has signed a watered-down bill initially proposed to stop the shark finning trade in Florida.
The bill, signed Tuesday 5/23/17, does increase penalties for shark finning and codifies a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rule prohibiting this practice, but does not go as far as shark conservation groups wanted. The original version of the bill would have made it a first-degree misdemeanor in the state to trade or sell shark fins and tails, as well as suspend or revoke permits for commercial and recreational fishermen found in violation. However, lawmakers removed the language regarding sale and trade and they substituted language that calls for the serious punishment for fishermen found in possession of fins.
Conservation groups, such as Oceana, had been calling for an outright ban on the sale of fins. Oceana has contended that 73 million sharks are sold on the global market every year. Roughly, 70 percent of the most common shark species involved in this global fin trade are considered at risk for extinction.
Oceana recently conducted a study that found that sharks are far more valuable alive than dead. The study reported that divers contributed $221 million in revenue for the state in 2016 seeing sharks on dive excursion, which supported 3,700 jobs. By contrast, the selling of shark fins nationwide only generated $1 million.
A federal bill, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, has been introduced that would eliminate shark finning nationwide.
State Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, admitted the state bill did not go as far as some conservationists wanted it to, but called the bill a good compromise. “Although it is not a complete ban, because there are still some fishermen out there who still do the right thing, who harvest and use the whole shark, it does significantly increase the penalties,” Raschein said Wednesday.