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General News    H4'ed 3/23/17

Shark Fins: Waste or Resource for Florida Fishing?

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Keller with a Bonnethead, the main species he is studying for his Doctorate at Florida State University.
Keller with a Bonnethead, the main species he is studying for his Doctorate at Florida State University.
(Image by Bryan Keller)
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An article in the St. Augustine Record caught my eye on social media this week. Viewed as a winter resident of Florida the headline was quite shocking, especially since I have many times seen sharks hauled ashore by surf-fishing tourists and subsequently abused. By abuse I mean leaving the animal in the sand while relatives run to find cameras to record the grisly images for bragging rights, not at all concerned about the suffering of the shark and/or the fact that it needs water to be able to "breathe."

The header in the Record was even more worrisome: "Sale and trade of shark fins to continue in Florida, despite threat to ecosystem, tourism."

The Boston Globe-credited-photo leading the post was worse. Caption: "Sharks are usually alive when the fins are cut off, and are thrown back in the water afterward, where they die slow deaths because they are unable to swim." Indeed. A man is pictured hacking off the dorsal fin, a practice called "shark-finning," while the shark has blood running like tears from a glassy, empty eye. Eye catching for sure.

The gist of the matter is that the Florida Senate recently amended a bill (Senate Bill 884) that was introduced in February. Florida Senator Travis Hutson, R-Elkton's original bill would have slowed or stopped the sale, trade or distribution of fins. Environmentalists are concerned about the amendments, which they feel would weaken the bill.

The current bill can be found here.

The original bill can be found here.

Sharks are a critical part of the ocean ecosystem and have been persecuted ever since the Movie "Jaws" premiered in the 1970's. The recent spate of "Sharknado" movies may be funny viewed through a certain lens, but are another reason sharks are treated as commodities and objects of human domination. True fishermen (and I know a few) would never engage in the activities described in the lede to this post.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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