California Assemblymembers Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) revealed a landmark proposal to make it illegal to possess or sell shark fins, on Monday.
Assembly Bill (AB) 376 would essentially ban shark finning, a process where the fins and tails are cut from living sharks, and the remainder of the fish, which is often still alive, is thrown back into the ocean.
Shark fins are considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, and are used to make a soup that often sells for more than $80 a bowl. The Associated Press reports that at a large specialty market in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, dried triangular fins are selling for $299 to $699 a pound.
In late December, the U.S. government passed the Shark Conservation Act which prohibited the practice of finning for almost all species of sharks. Unfortunately, loopholes in wording and enforcement have prevented this legislation from having a noticeable effect.
“While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., consumption of shark fin soup in California contributes to shark finning in other parts of the world, a practice that is driving numerous shark populations to the brink of extinction, said Dr. Geoff Shester,” California Program Director at Oceana.
Estimates suggest that between 26 and 73 million sharks are finned each year to feed the demand for this menu item.
“Current laws that ban the practice of shark finning are insufficient when we have species of sharks depleted up to 90 percent,” Assemblymember Fong stated on his website. “The demand for shark fin is growing and the worldwide shark population is depleting to extinction rates. I say it is time to remove shark fin from the menu.”
And not just for the shark’s benefit: An article on SharkSavers.org points out that sharks have more mercury than any other fish because they are at the top of the food chain, can live for 50 years or more, eat many fish during that lifetime, and continue to store mercury in their bodies during that time. When eaten, shark fin soup introduces a lifetime’s accumulation of mercury into the body.
“Sharks are the top predators in ocean ecosystems around the world,” said Assemblymember Jared Huffman, the bill’s co-author. “Removing them by this senseless act of finning can seriously destabilize the food chain. To save them from extinction, our bill targets the demand for these shark fins by banning their sale and possession here in California.”
A similar ban on shark fins passed in Hawaii last year. Oregon and Washington are also considering legislative action on shark finning.
Image Credit: Flickr - usfwspacific