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.
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.
A similar version of this bill, S.B. 1002, was introduced in 2012 but failed to pass.
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.
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.