Proposed California Law Would Ban Shark Fin Soup

Posted by Stephanie Ulmer, Guest Blogger on March 17, 2011

Introduced by California Assembly members, Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), on February 14, 2011, AB 376 seeks to outlaw the practice of using shark fins to make the Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup. The bill has the support of conservationists, scientists and environmental groups, as well as sport and commercial fishermen. The draft states:

“The practice of shark finning, where a shark is caught, its fins cut off, and the carcass dumped back into the water, causes tens of millions of sharks to die each year. Sharks starve to death, may be slowly eaten by other fish, or drown because most sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen… Data from federal and international agencies show a decline in shark populations worldwide… California is a market for shark fin and this demand helps drive the practice of shark finning. The market also drives shark declines. By impacting the demand for shark fins, California can help ensure that sharks do not become extinct as a result of shark finning.”

It appears that the law has the best interests of sharks at heart, seeking to protect them from this horrible fate. The federal Shark Conservation Act, signed into law earlier this year by President Obama, sought to end the practice of shark finning, and reports that the practice is banned in U.S. waters, with the exception of a fishery in North Carolina. It is most certainly clear that the need for legislation to protect these vital creatures is urgent, as some estimates show that as much as 90 percent of the world’s shark population has disappeared due to overfishing. Hawaii recently passed a similar bill that will impose fines of $5,000 to $15,000 for first-time offenders, and Oregon and Washington are also considering bans.

While this may seem like a humane and reasonable law to most, there has been some backlash in California’s Chinese community, who feel the ban is unfair to Asian Americans. The soup, considered a delicacy, is often served at Chinese restaurants and is quite popular at banquets and celebrations. But tradition aside, it is time to consider what the overfishing and needless suffering have caused. It will be too late to protect these animals after they are gone. There may only be 10 percent left. Do we really want to conceive of an ocean without sharks to fuel an insatiable appetite for fins? I think not. It is time for a new tradition.

California residents: contact your state assemblyperson and ask them to support AB 376!

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