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Summary of Legislation: This legislation would make it illegal to possess any finfish except broadbill swordfish or king mackerel, which has had the tail removed unless it is in transit to a legally authorized dealer. This legislation prohibits a person from person buying or offering to buy, selling or offering to sell, possession for the purpose of sale, transporting, or shipping for the purpose of sale, bartering, or exchange for a shark fin; regardless of whether or not the shark was caught in the coastal waters of Texas. The legislation would allow a permit to be issued for the purpose of scientific research, exempting the holder from prosecution. An offense would carry a Class B misdemeanor charge and a second offense within 5 years of the first, would be prosecuted as a Class A misdemeanor.
Analysis: This legislation attempts to ban the wasteful and cruel practice of shark finning. Shark finners catch sharks, cut off their fins, and throw the still live but finless shark overboard. The fins are sold for use in shark fin soup. We do not support the practice of shark finning.
However, this legislation is both unnecessary and overly broad in a way that will effectively ban legitimate and perfectly legal shark fishing.
This legislation is unnecessary because the practice of shark finning is already illegal under federal law due to the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 and the Shark Conservation Act of 2010. No new legislation is needed to address this issue.
Furthermore, this legislation is written in such a broad manner that it outlaws perfectly legal and ethical shark fishing. In Texas, fishermen are permitted to catch one shark per person per day with a two-shark possession limit. HB 852 would criminalize the legal possession of shark fins that are still attached to the shark. In order to legally keep a shark if this legislation were to be enacted, a fisherman would have to cut off the fins and throw them overboard. Since no one wants to keep a shark carcass without the fins, this legislation would effectively end shark fishing. This would be devastating for charter boat operators and other small maritime businesses such as bait and tackle shops, dockside restaurants, etc.
Due to the overly broad construction of this legislation, the unintended consequences it would create, and the deleterious economic impacts it would have, we strongly oppose HB 852