Legislation that would ban the import and export of shark fins in Florida has landed on the Governor’s desk and is awaiting his signature.
Sen. Travis Hutson sponsored the bill (SB 680).
The measure is named after the late Rep. Kristin Jacobs, who sponsored the House version of the bill (HB 401). Jacobs passed away in April — almost exactly one month after the Legislature approved the bill — after a yearslong battle with cancer.
Jacobs had made banning the shark fin trade a priority. Toward the end of the legislative process, Rep. Toby Overdorf offered an amendment renaming the bill the “Kristin Jacobs Ocean Conservation Act.” That amendment was approved.
Jacobs and other proponents of the bill condemn the practice of shark finning, where traders cut the fins off a shark but leave the body in the ocean. Without those fins, the shark will almost surely die from blood loss or drowning, as it can no longer swim.
Finning those sharks is illegal in the U.S., but trading in fins is not. The fins are highly sought after at some restaurants.
The measure does permit the “sale of shark fins by any commercial fisherman who harvested sharks from a vessel holding a valid federal shark fishing permit on January 1, 2020″ as well as “the export and sale of shark fins by any wholesale dealer holding a valid federal Atlantic shark dealer permit on January 1, 2020.”
The legislation also requires the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to study whether to also ban locally-supplied shark fins.
The bill’s backers have lobbied Gov. Ron DeSantis to approve the legislation. Shark Allies, a nonprofit organization aimed at shark conservation, released a statement lobbying the Governor after the bill was passed.
“Making it through all six committees and ending up with a victory for sharks is something most people believed would never happen,” said Stefanie Brendl, the group’s executive director.
“There is more work to be done but ending the imports of fins immediately is a massive accomplishment and a bold first step in the right direction.”