California proposes ban on selling shark fin

Jeremy Hance
February 16, 2011

Last year Hawaii banned the sale of shark fins; California may be next. Bill 376, introduced by two Democrats, would outlaw the sale of shark fins, including the popular Asian delicacy shark fin soup, in the US's most populous state.

One of the bill's sponsors, Paul Fong, said at a new conference as reported by the SF Gate, "I grew up on shark fin soup, but when I found out the effect it is having on the shark population two years ago, I stopped eating it."

However, others see the bill as an affront on an age-old cuisine. Democrat Leland Yee called it an "attack on Asian culture", according to the SF Gate. Shark fin is also believed by some to have medicinal properties.

Between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins. Sharks are brought aboard ships where their fins are cut off then they are thrown back into the water—often still alive—where they succumb to their injuries.

While the US bans the practice of shark finning on its fishing ships, it does allow sale of shark fin. Environmentalists say that this opens a loophole allowing foreign ships to continue the practice to feed American consumers.

The shark finning trade is seen as the primary driver behind drastic declines in many shark species. The scalloped hammered population has dropped by 98 percent in some regions, while the oceanic whitetip shark has declined by 90 percent in the central Pacific Ocean and 99 percent in the Gulf of Mexico. The IUCN Red List has found that 32 percent of open ocean sharks and rays are currently threatened with extinction, a much higher percentage than either mammals or birds.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (February 16, 2011).

California proposes ban on selling shark fin.