Why Do We Need State Legislation When There is a Proposal For a National Law?

Finned scalloped hammerhead sharks, Photo by Shawn Heinrichs,  BlueSpherefoundation.org

Finned scalloped hammerhead sharks, Photo by Shawn Heinrichs, BlueSpherefoundation.org



While we have been using #NoFinFL specifically for the Florida campaign push, #FinBanNow is the tag to specify the Federal bill. You may be wondering why we are working on State level Florida legislation when there is a an effort underway to ban the trade of fins on a National level. Here are the main reasons:

  • Congressional bills can take a long time to pass.

  • A congressional bill has lots of roadblocks to overcome and therefore can be weakened through exemptions and amendments. There is no guarantee that a bill that survives the process will actually be as effective as we hope. The same is true for State bills. So we essentially need to try on both levels to ensure that something effective will enacted as soon as possible.

  • Each State that passes shark fin legislation will help ease the path for the National bills. The more States we can add to the list, the more Congress level representatives are likely to support the bills.

  • State law can often be stronger than Federal law. It gives State authorities the ability to enforce more effectively and efficiently. For example, the federal act could end up exempting locally sourced fins from certain permitted fisheries, due to the pressure exerted by the commercial shark fishing lobby. Your State‚Äôs legislation, on the other hand, may pass the law without that exemption. This is true in most, but unfortunately not all US States that passed fin bans.

Why are there two bills in Florida?

The reason matching bills are introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives is simply because every bill has to be heard on both sides of the House. Getting bills through can be difficult.

  • Last year, 46% of bills that passed one house failed to get out of the other.

  • According to the Florida Senate bill list, legislators introduced 3,193 bills during the 2018 regular session.

  • By the end of session, Senate passed just 85 of its bills. The House passed 286.

Now imagine where a shark related bill might fall in this whole process. Environmental bills have a hard time in general, because they often are seen as less of a priority. The effect is even greater when we are talking about Ocean conservation, and infinitely tougher when we talk about shark related bills. This is why passing a shark fin trade prohibition is such a tough campaign. It is also the reason why a united effort and effective timing is so critical.

Stefanie Brendl