TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A bill on Gov. Rick Scott's desk seeks to discourage the illegal practice of shark finning off Florida’s coast, but some marine activists said it doesn’t go far enough.
Shark fin soup is an expensive delicacy in Asian countries like China and Japan. To meet the demand, shark landings have tripled since the 1950s. The overfishing has taken a toll on the global shark population.
Jack Rudloe owns Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories in Panacea. He said if sharks aren’t thriving, the rest of the ocean’s ecosystem is sure to follow.
“If you don't have apex predators thinning things out, then you get a proliferation of diseases that come in, and parasites,” Rudloe said.
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, would increase fines and suspend licenses.
The legislation sent to the governor would raise the fine for finning from $500 to $4,500. Poachers would also face 60 days in jail and a 180-day suspension of their saltwater license. The penalties increase each time a person is caught. A third offense would permanently suspend a person’s saltwater license.
“The fines were almost negligible before and now they're up to $10,000 and the almost immediate loss of your commercial fishing license," Rep. Alexandra Miller said. "So I do hope that the combination will help to deter this practice.”
Although marine activists support the idea of increased penalties on shark finners, they don’t believe this bill will have a significant impact on the global trade.
“The United States is not the problem," Rudloe said. "Asia is the problem. The Chinese fisheries are the problem.”
Rudloe said there needs to be a major dietary change in Asia, where the fins are highly coveted for boosting sexual potency, preventing heart disease and lowering cholesterol.
Scott has until Wednesday to sign the legislation, let it become law, or veto it.