An opportunity to end shark finning in California

As early as today, members of the California State Senate could be voting on AB 376, the ban on the sale of shark fins in the state of California. The goal is to curb the cruel practice of shark finning, the harvesting technique used by fisherman to obtain the expensive ingredient in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. When a shark is caught for their fin, the appendage is cut off and the injured shark is thrown back into the ocean, condemned to cannibalism by other sharks and fish, drowning or bleeding to death. It is the equivalent of chopping off the leg of a cow, and leaving the rest of it to die.

Shark finning is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of shark deaths every year. “At this rate they’re going to be extinct in our lifetime and without the top predator, our oceans ecosystem goes into a huge imbalance and falls like a house of cards,” says California Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale). Sharks are already unable to compete with the demand for their fins with species populations falling by over 90% and fisherman reporting a decrease in the size of the sharks that they are catching.

Opponents of the bill are claiming that it is an attack on Asian culture, since shark fin soup is traditionally served at celebrations, such as weddings or holidays, but not everyone in the Asian community agrees. Over 22,000 people have signed onto a petition supporting AB 376 started by Bill Wong, a member of the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance. Fong, a Chinese American is among that community. “I am proud of my Chinese roots, and our culture will live and survive without shark’s fins.”

Bo Derek, actress and environmental advocate, has also been very actively supporting this bill, joining activists at the state capitol to ask legislators for their support. “The process is very deplorable.” While testifying in front of the California Senate Appropriations Committee she stated, “sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, and yet many stocks may be wiped out in a single human generation due to the increasing demand for shark fins.”

If AB 376 is passed in the California Senate, it will head to Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law and go into affect in 2013. California will join Washington, Hawaii, and Oregon in shark conservation laws.