In California, the Shark-Fin Ban Awaits the Governor's Signature
A long list of celebrities and animal-protection organizations have called on California's governor to sign a law that recently passed in the state assembly that would prohibit the sale, purchase, or possession of shark fins. Governor Jerry Brown has until Oct. 8 to approve or veto the measure.
Co-sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance, AB 376 made waves in the Chinese-American community. Shark-fin soup, a high-priced delicacy, is often reserved for weddings and other special occasions. Despite the dish's hallowed tradition, many Chinese-Americans supported the bill in an effort to protect shark populations.
"Finning" is the practice of slicing off sharks’ fins and tails, then tossing the rest of the animal back into the ocean to bleed to death. Sharks serve a vital role as one of the ocean’s apex predators, their populations are declining dramatically. To boot, they reproduce slowly, so they won't be easy to replace. Advocates of the legislation assert that California is one of the biggest shark-fin marketsoutside of Asia. Their aim is to cut off that demand and protect sharks from being overfished.
The Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance collected more than 27,000 signatures on its online petition to support the ban. According to the Alliance, “Thousands of years of Asian philosophy emphasizes the importance of harmony between nature and humanity . . . Although shark-fin soup has been a popular traditional Chinese entree for years because of its association with prestige and privilege, the APA community must help reduce the consumption of shark fin in order to protect the ocean ecosystem that keeps our environment in balance.”
Other Chinese-American politicians objected to the legislation as discriminatory, since it doesn’t ban other products such as shark steaks or shark-skin boots, bags, or belts. State senator Leland Yee of San Francisco released a statement saying that though he is “very concerned with the plight of many shark species and the illegal shark finning trade,” the “law to ban all shark fins from consumption — regardless of species or how they were fished or harvested — is the wrong approach and an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine.” The assemblyman’s objections failed to convince his fellow legislators. Now only one signature remains.
Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington have already passed a similar law. If the governor signs AB 376 into law, sharks might be closer to saying, “No soup for you.”