TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – While many humans are scared of sharks, the reality is that sharks have much more reason to be scared of humans than we do of them. The main reason: a practice called “shark-finning”, which kills millions of sharks every year.
A bill filed this month in the state Senate would ban the sale and possession of shark fins and tails in the state of Florida. It comes on the heels of a similar bill that failed to get passed in 2014, and an online petition to ban the shake trade in Florida that has more than 25,000 signatures.
“A lot of people don’t even know what ‘finning’ is. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing, it sounds like flying or winging it. It’s a terrible thing,” said Eric Hovland, Associate Curator of the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. "It's quite simply pulling a shark out of the water that's alive, cutting away its fins and discarding the living, breathing body back into the water."
“We’ve seen a number of states put in bills and pass bills to ban shark fin products. Hawaii was the first, and recently Texas just about a year ago, and even Florida was on the docket back in 2014 but it just didn’t get anywhere. There was momentum there that just came to a halt so I’m really excited to see that this is happening again,” added Hovland. “For Florida to recognize that this practice is going on and to stop the transport or sale of fin products, it catches up with the rest of the world right now in where we’re starting to think about sharks and really value them in the environmental resource and necessity that they are.”
Shark fins are seen as a delicacy in China. Shark fin soup is often served at weddings and is seen as a status symbol in Chinese culture.
10News found one restaurant owner right here in Tampa who has shark fin soup on the menu.
He didn't want to be on camera because he says he's received threats over offering the dish but he agreed to talk to me about the issue.
He said that even though he doesn't make much money on it, he needs to have shark fin soup on the menu in order to be a truly authentic Cantonese restaurant. When he caters weddings many families ask for the dish, but he added that if the shark fin trade is outlawed he will simply take it off the menu and stop serving it.
And, he admits, the shark fin itself has very little taste which brings back the question: why are we brutally mutilating millions of sharks and leaving them to die every year?
“It can be changed,” said Hovland. “Folks can change their habits, cultures can become more enlightened, and find different ways to still celebrate wonderful culture but also give consideration for their kids and the future that we are leaving for everyone.”