Shark Fin Bill Goes to Senate: Act Now to Support Sharks

Sacramento, August 25, 

by David McGuire, Director Sea Stewards

Today the California Senate Appropriations Committee voted to support shark conservation efforts by banning the sale of shark fins.  Scientists and conservationists believe that the rising demand for the dish in the past decades has lead to widespread hunting of sharks for their fins, and is increasing threats to shark populations worldwide.

In the cruel and wasteful act of shark finning, fishermen cut them off live sharks and dump the fish back in the water to die.

Take Action.

The California Shark Conservation Act, or AB 376,  would ban the sale, trade and possession of shark fins in California.

This effort has been championed by conservation groups including The California Academy of Sciences, The Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Humane Society and a whole coalition of conservation groups to limit the harvest of sharks for their fins in the practice called shark finning.

The measure has divided the California’s Chinese American community. For centuries the soup prepared with dried shark fins has been served as an expensive Chinese delicacy reserved for the wealthy.  Increasingly, the dish has caught on among the middle classes and is served at banquets and weddings in China and here in the USA. Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year for their fins and scientists believe that the fin trade is threatening the health and stability of ocean ecosystems.

Some Chinese American restaurateurs and sea food traders have lobbied against the ban and are being backed by a small group of Chinese American lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Leland Yee (D- San Francisco San Mateo).  A member of the committee, and a representative of the area that includes LA Chinatown, Senator Lieu voted against the measure today. 

The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 5-2 vote and now moves to the full Senate, where a vote is expected next few week. 

Ayes included: Kehoe, Alquist, Pavley, Price, Steinberg. The Noes included: Walters & Lieu. 

The California State Assembly passed the ban in May, but it ran into opposition in the upper house where opponents are calling the measure "an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine."  In San Francisco, the issue is increasing heat to a divisive debate among Asian American Mayoral candidates where several are in favor including Chair of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu, and against, Acting Mayor Ed Lee, and Senator Leland Yee. 

The Bill is supported by Chinese American lawmakers, chefs and celebrities, including a coalition of Asian Americans, APAOHA who are speaking out in support of shark conservation.

State Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), a sponsor of the bill, was born in Hong Kong and grew up eating shark fin soup.  Mr Fong stopped eating the soup a few years ago after learning how the fin trade is wiping out shark populations worldwide.

“At this rate they're going to be extinct in our lifetime,” Fong said in an interview. “And without the top predator, our ocean's ecosystem goes into a huge imbalance and falls like a house of cards.”

“I'm proud of my Chinese roots, and our culture will live and survive without shark's fin,” he added.

President Obama signed federal legislation tightening a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters earlier this year but shark fins from the international trade are entering US ports. Similar legislation has been signed in Washington, Oregon and Hawaii.

If approved by the senate and signed by the governor, the California law would go into effect in 2013.

Take Action  Write your Senator Today to Support AB 376. 

As one of the original sponsors of this Bill and one of the leaders of the shark fin movement, please support the work of Sea Stewards.