Bill Interrupted – California Shark Fin Ban Hits Roadblock
AB 376 would make it illegal to possess shark fins in California. The fin trade is rampant; an unsustainable 73 to 100 million sharks are being harvested from our oceans every year and California is a key shipping hub where fins are collected from all of the Americas before being sent to China and other countries along the Pacific Rim.
On August 15th, 2011, AB 376 was placed in the suspense file. This means that more information is being gathered and amendments are being considered. This also means that this critical bill is in danger of quietly vaporizing. Current amendment requests would both weaken the bill and make enforcement expensive and therefore unfeasible.
The entire superorder of sharks constitutes the primary apex predators in all our oceans. Maintaining healthy numbers of these essential animals keep ecosystems healthy. They pick off sick animals before disease can spread and keep other populations in check so they do not explode in numbers and eat other prey populations into oblivion. Other states and countries such as Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Palau the Bahama Islands and others have already passed similar bills. Since sharks migrate and patrol wide territories, and they do not know political boundaries, we must join an international coalition to bring these animals back from the brink before our oceans’ finely tuned balance collapses.
AB 376 was co-authored by Assembly members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman. On February 14, 2011, the bill was introduced and passed with an overwhelming majority in the California Assembly. The bill moved the Senate and there it drew high profile support from over 75% of Californians (Information collected by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates). The opposition hired two top-paid lobbyist firms, Lang Hansen O’Malley & Miller and Sloat, Higgins, Jensen & Associates. These firms represent major corporate clients like Walmart, Altria (Philip Morris) Accenture, and Anthem Blue Cross and they began circulating rumors that the bill was based upon the discrimination of Chinese Americans. Many senators are fearful of appearing racist and began requesting amendments to the bill that would make it both weak and expensive. Given the current financial state of the California budget, an expensive bill will not get passed.
We currently have over 11,000 signatures on our petition in support of the bill, but we need more. Our goal of 25,000 signatures will help ensure that this bill becomes law. We are hoping for a groundswell of volunteers who will take this electronic petition into communities, workplaces and universities. We need to exploit the full power of social media and give a clear message to our senators. We are not willing to risk the collapse of fisheries and our oceans for a cup of soup! Take action today.
Photo credit: Sea Save Foundation