The California State Assembly just overwhelmingly approved a ban on the sale and distribution of shark fins within the state moving California one step closer to joining Washington in making the Chinese delicacy illegal. After approving the proposed bill , known as AB376, by a vote of 62-8 this afternoon, the bill now moves to the Senate and if approved, would make the sale and distribution of shark fins illegal starting Jan. 1, 2013.
The bill is not without controversy on both sides. The use of shark fins in soup and other foods is considered a delicacy in China and some argue the ban is a form a racism against the traditions of Chinese Americans. On the other hand, the New York Times reports that 73 million sharks are killed for their fins and tail. The practice of shark finning involves the removal of the fins and tail while the shark is still alive, then the body is dumped back into the ocean where the sharks will die.
The excessive harvest could lead to a catastrophic collapse in global shark populations. California State Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) authored the controversial bill and said, “I knew when I accepted the responsibility (of authoring this bill) – I weighed the cultural implications versus the environmental concerns, and the environmental issues outweighed the cultural. This is like a house of cards – once we lose the top predator we will watch the rest of the ocean collapse.”
Assemblyman Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) noted that California currently issues permits that allow fisherman to legally kill thousands of sharks each year. “If sharks are an endangered species, and are being imported illegally from abroad, why not start in California and ban the taking of sharks in California?” he said. “This unfairly targets one community, a community I represent. … and that brings into question the issue of fairness.”
Just 10 days ago, Washington banned shark fins as Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation that prohibits the sale, trade or distribution of shark fins or derivative products in the state of Washington. Hawaii and Guam have passed similar measures and a proposed measure is also being considered in Oregon.
In a recent study, a team valued the life of a shark alive at nearly $2 million for tourism and dive-related revenue on a shark reef in Palau.
[via SF Gate]