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Feds cracking down on gruesome shark fin trade at Miami ports

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The shark fin trade is becoming more popular in Miami and surrounding ports. Sharks have fallen victim to a cruel practice of slicing fins from their backs while they are still alive. Then, the fishermen dump their bleeding bodies back into the ocean where they are left to suffocate or die of blood loss.

In China, shark fin soup is a symbol of status for the rich and powerful, so the shark fin trade is frequently used. It is estimated the fins of as many as 73 million sharks are sliced every year worldwide.

The practice extends beyond China. A complaint quietly filed last month in Miami federal court accused an exporter based in the Florida Keys of falsely labeling 5,666 pounds of shark fins as live Florida spiny lobsters. The shark fins were all shipped to China. Another company in Florida is also under criminal investigation for similar violations.

The shark fin trade is not completely illegal, like hunting elephants for ivory in their tusks. Since 2000, federal law has made it illegal to cut the fins off sharks that are alive, and individuals cannot discard their bodies back into the ocean. Individual states have wide leeway to decide whether or not businesses can harvest fins from dead sharks at a dock, or import them from overseas.

However, state lawmakers are hoping to change that. Congress is currently debating a federal ban on shark fins that would make it illegal to import or export even foreign-caught fins. Every year, American wildlife inspectors seize thousands of shark fins while in transit to Asia for failing to declare the shipments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Karah Rucker: FEDERAL OFFICIALS ARE TARGETING A GROWING SHARK FIN MARKET IN THE U-S.
IT’S AN INDUSTRY THAT HAS BEEN COMPARED TO THE NOW-ILLEGAL IVORY TRADE.
A COMPLAINT FILED IN MIAMI FEDERAL COURT LAST MONTH ACCUSED A SEAFOOD EXPORTER OF FALSELY LABELING OVER 5-THOUSAND POUNDS OF SHARK FINS AS LIVE LOBSTERS.
IT’S JUST THE LATEST COMPANY BASED OUT OF FLORIDA TO FIND ITSELF IN HOT WATER.
ACTIVISTS HAVE DESCRIBED THE HUNTING OF SHARKS FOR THEIR FINS AS BARBARIC AND GRUESOME.
CONGRESS IS DEBATING A FEDERAL BAN ON IMPORTS AND EXPORTS.

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The shark fin trade is becoming more popular in Miami and surrounding ports. Sharks have fallen victim to a cruel practice of slicing fins from their backs while they are still alive. Then, the fishermen dump their bleeding bodies back into the ocean where they are left to suffocate or die of blood loss.

In China, shark fin soup is a symbol of status for the rich and powerful, so the shark fin trade is frequently used. It is estimated the fins of as many as 73 million sharks are sliced every year worldwide.

The practice extends beyond China. A complaint quietly filed last month in Miami federal court accused an exporter based in the Florida Keys of falsely labeling 5,666 pounds of shark fins as live Florida spiny lobsters. The shark fins were all shipped to China. Another company in Florida is also under criminal investigation for similar violations.

The shark fin trade is not completely illegal, like hunting elephants for ivory in their tusks. Since 2000, federal law has made it illegal to cut the fins off sharks that are alive, and individuals cannot discard their bodies back into the ocean. Individual states have wide leeway to decide whether or not businesses can harvest fins from dead sharks at a dock, or import them from overseas.

However, state lawmakers are hoping to change that. Congress is currently debating a federal ban on shark fins that would make it illegal to import or export even foreign-caught fins. Every year, American wildlife inspectors seize thousands of shark fins while in transit to Asia for failing to declare the shipments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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