Featured Image Credit: Jeff Rotman
By Alice Morris
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discovered dozens of shark fins aboard a shrimp boat off Key West last month.
Wildlife officials seized between 30 and 40 pairs of fins after they stopped the vessel about twenty miles from shore on March 29th.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is currently investigating the case and no charges have been filed.
Florida banned shark finning over sixteen years ago, according to the Miami Herald, but buying and selling imported shark fins is still legal in most states. This makes tracking down where legally acquired shark fins come from more difficult for wildlife officials.
“When we import them we have no idea if they came from sustainable shark fisheries or fisheries where they’re still finning,” says Mariah Pfeger, a scientist for the ocean conservation organization Oceana.
Every year, over 73 million sharks are killed worldwide for their fins. The process of finning can be especially gruesome since many sharks are tossed overboard after they’ve been finned. They are then left to either suffocate or get eaten by predators.
Shark finning has a negative impact on the ecosystem since the trade targets some of the largest, longest-lived species of shark. With fewer sharks around, populations of smaller fishes increase, which can harm shellfish populations.
Oceana says that dwindling shark populations also have a detrimental impact on Florida’s economy since shark tourism brings in $220 million annually for the state and provides around 3,700 jobs.
A new proposal for federal legislation that would ban the trade of shark fins is currently working its way through Congress.