Shark finning is the act of catching live sharks, cutting their pectoral, primary dorsal, secondary dorsal, caudal, pelvic and anal fins off, then throwing the shark back into the ocean to die if they are not already dead. This process can be cruel and unjust while seriously harming the environment in more than one way.
Oceana, a worldwide ocean conservation organization, has reported that the NOAA estimates are even lower than the true number of sharks illegally traded and exported through the United States.
As of October 2020, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 680. This bill is named the Kristin Jacobs Ocean Conservation Act after Kristin Jacobs, a former state representative of the 96th district of Floria who was an environmental advocate for Florida and wildlife. The bill was named as the largest shark fin ban in the United States, setting a potential reputation for conservation in Florida.
This ban covers the importing, exporting and selling of shark fins in Florida. So far, 12 other states in the U.S. have banned the finning of sharks. Through this ban on shark finning, Florida has the ability to prevent shark endangerment and the trading on black markets.
This particular bill is important because of how vital sharks are to the ocean ecosystems. Sharks maintain balance in the oceans between predator and prey, leading to the preservation of reefs, which generate a large amount of the air we breathe.
Kristin Jacobs worked for two years to get this bill to the state Senate. It passed with a 119-1 vote. Shark finning is now banned in all of Florida with the hope to spread awareness of how our oceans are exploited.
While many do agree with this bill, there has been slight controversy set by other ocean organizations, such as Oceana, who claim that there are loopholes within this ban. Said ocean organizations state that the ban needs to go further than just prohibiting the finning of sharks and must extend to a federal trade ban, which would counter the risks of intense shark population declines.
With 181 different shark species listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, several other countries, including Costa Rica and Canada, have placed bans or restrictions on shark finning. Whale sharks in particular are one of the most endangered species as well as the most prized and used as decorations in many stores or restaurants.
Over 20 million blue sharks are finned each year for trade, similar to the whitetip sharks that are frequently traded.
Jacobs had the support from many local Florida organizations such as the Guy Harvey Research Institute of South Florida and the Florida State Parks Foundation. Jacobs was also well-known for her fight for waterways in Florida, later leading to her support of overall environmental advocacy and opposition to the shark finning trade.
After years of fighting to ban the sale and trade of shark fins in Florida, the bill was officially passed in October 2020. As of now, the sale and trade of shark fins is illegal and could result in a fine of $500-$1,000 and imprisonment for up to 90 days.
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