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Florida Legislation

Sponsor(s): Sen. David Simmons (R-10) and Rep. Mike Clelland (D-29)

S.B. 540/H.B. 449 Would Ban the Shark Fin Trade

Update: Under pressure from the fishing industry, the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee significantly weakened S.B. 540 through amendments. See the italicized portion of the bill description below for details on these changes.

Bill description:
The amended version of this bill increases the penalties for fishers caught cutting the fins off sharks in state waters. It is now a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 60 days in prison for a first offense.

This bill prohibits the possession, sale, trade, purchase, shipping, barter, exchange, or distribution of shark fins in Florida. The penalties include a criminal charge and a fine between $5,000 and $15,000. There are 4 exemptions to this prohibition:

  • 1. A restaurant that possessed fins prior to the enactment of this bill can possess/sell their remaining stock.
  • 2. A person may remove a fin from a shark during the process of preparing the shark’s body, as long as the fin is disposed of immediately.
  • 3. A person with a scientific permit may possess fins for research/education.
  • 4. A person may transport or possess a fin that is not for sale as long as they are taking it from a point out of the state to another point out of the state, but passing through FL without unloading the fins.
  • A similar version of this bill, S.B. 1002, was introduced in 2012 but failed to pass.

    Background:
    Shark finning is a particularly cruel practice in which people cut the fins off live sharks and return their bodies to the water where the sharks inevitably die. The animals who are cast back into the ocean suffer slow, painful deaths by drowning or blood loss.

    Shark finning does not threaten just a few sharks, but 73 million sharks every year worldwide. Many of these sharks are endangered species. Sharks reach maturity later in life than other fish and have small litters of offspring, making them highly susceptible to overfishing.

    Shark fins are most commonly used in shark fin soup, an Asian dish that connotes wealth and status.

    Take Action:
    Florida residents, contact your state senator and express you desire to see a stronger bill in 2015 that outlaws the possession, sale, trade, purchase, shipping, barter, exchange, or distribution of shark fins in Florida -- without exceptions.

    Read the full text and follow its progress here for the Senate bill and here for the House bill.

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