KEY LARGO (CBSMiami) – Nearly a dozen shark fins and dismembered sharks were discovered Monday on a boat off Key Largo.
The disturbing discovery was made in a joint operation between the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The shark parts were found aboard the 40-foot commercial fishing vessel, Miss Shell, near South Sound Creek. FWC boarded the boat due to improper display of navigation lights. While investigating, the boarding team discovered 11 shark fins and dismembered sharks.
The Miss Shell was escorted to Port Largo, and the catch was seized.
Federal law prohibits the act of shark finning, a process of removing shark fins at sea and discarding the rest of the shark, since 2000.
“This case is a great example of interagency coordination to stop illegal fishing and allows for efficient enforcement of the commercial fishing fleet in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Rich Steidell, Coast Guard Station Islamorada. “Our marine resources are extremely valuable to the public and our nation. Boaters and fishermen are reminded to familiarize themselves with the fishing regulations to make sure they are complying with federal law.”
The violations against the operator of the boat included failure to maintain a shark in its proper form, and failure to maintain naturally attached shark fins through off-loading. The detached shark fins will be sent to a laboratory for testing to determine the species of the origin and could lead to further charges, such as possession of prohibited species.
“Our partnerships with the Coast Guard and NOAA are valuable assets for the effective enforcement of both federal and state fisheries regulations, which are in place to ensure the availability of this important resource for future generations,” said Maj. Alfredo Escanio, FWC South Region Bravo Regional Commander.
“It’s a natural partnership to work with the Coast Guard and FWC,” said a NOAA spokesperson Tuesday. “This is a significant case with significant violations. Sharks are vital to the natural balance of our ecosystems, and NOAA works with our partnering agencies to ensure the health and sustainability of the species.”
The seized catch was transferred to NOAA officials Tuesday and an investigation is ongoing.