Legislature could put more teeth in shark fin law

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A measure that would increase fines and suspend licenses for people who violate a state law about the illegal possession of shark fins is poised for approval by the Florida Senate next week.

Senators on Thursday prepared the measure (SB 884) for a vote. State law requires sharks harvested in Florida waters to be brought ashore in a whole condition.

People illegally in possession of shark fins face a second-degree misdemeanor carrying a fine up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, would increase the fine to $4,500 and add a six-month suspension of a person's saltwater license on a first offense.

A second violation would bump the fine to $9,500 with a one-year license suspension. Licenses would be permanently revoked on a third offense.

A similar House proposal (HB 823) has been unanimously supported by two panels and awaits an appearance before the Government Accountability Committee.

Shark fins are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia. A federal rule outlaws removal of the fins of a shark, including the tail, at sea or to bring on land a fin that is not attached to the carcass of a shark. However, a Senate staff report noted that while the practice of shark finning is prohibited in the U.S., trade in shark fins is legal.