Senate cracks down on shark 'finning'

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Florida Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill aimed at preventing illegal possession of shark fins, considered a delicacy in parts of Asia.

The bill (SB 884), sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, would increase fines and suspend licenses for people who violate a state law about the illegal possession of shark fins.

The issue stems, at least in part, from shark "finning," an illegal practice that involves cutting off shark fins at sea and then discarding the sharks.

The state 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 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.

The House Government Accountability Committee is slated Wednesday to take up a similar bill (HB 823), sponsored by Sarasota Republicans Alex Miller and Joe Gruters.