House Bill 852, which has passed in the Texas House, places tighter restrictions on the controversial fishing practice called shark finning.
Rep. Eddie Lucio, D-Harlingen, who authored the bill, said that over 73 million sharks are killed every year because of shark finning, a practice where fisherman cut off the fins of a shark and leave the amputated fish to die in the ocean.
"I am of the belief - and I am an avid fisherman - that we need to have a healthy ecosystem. You can sell the whole carcass - including the sharks - to processors and dealers. What we are trying to prohibit is the same public policy very similar to hunting elephants where we don’t create a market for ivory," Lucio said.
Some in the House, like Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, fear that the bill will unfairly target fishermen who may be in possession shark fins.
Lucio: "If you have a large enough quantity in your possession, law enforcement would still have to prove there was an intent to sell, yes ma’am."
Harless: "So with your legislation, already it is illegal to do this practice, but now we are putting in statutes that fishermen can become criminals."
Ultimately anyone caught attempting to sell shark fins by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden would be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.
The bill passed out of the House on a division vote, which stipulates a bill with at least 75 favorable votes is able to pass to engrossment.