Dozens of illegal shark fins discovered in boat off Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Florida wildlife officers stopped a shrimp boat out of Key West this week and discovered dozens of illegal shark fins.

The vessel was stopped about 20 miles from shore on Wednesday night by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission when officers found the fins, indicating they may have been taken in Florida waters.

Shark finning has been banned in Florida for more than 16 years, The Miami Herald reports.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service is investigating the finning, but no charges have been filed.

More than 73 million sharks are killed for their fins every year worldwide, and 27,000 tons of fins were traded in 2013. With fewer sharks in the water, the smaller fish they eat have increased, which has negative impacts on shellfish populations.

While finning sharks is illegal, buying and selling imported shark fins is still legal in most states.

That makes figuring out where legally bought fins come from difficult, and has led to new proposed federal legislation to ban trade of shark fins.

“When we import them we have no idea if they came from sustainable shark fisheries or fisheries where they’re still finning,” said Mariah Pfleger, a scientist for the environmental group Oceana, which supports the bill.

Oceana says the loss of sharks has other detrimental economic impacts on Florida, arguing that shark tourism brings in more than $220 million each year and produces about 3,700 jobs.

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