A definitive bill banning the sale, trade and possession of shark fins passed the state Assembly by a vote of 60 to 8 on Tuesday. The bill will now be sent to the desk of Governor Brown who could sign it into law as soon as next week.
Introduced by California Assembly Members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman earlier this year, the bill has been championed by a coalition including WildAid, Oceana, the Humane Society of the United States, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and backed by community leaders and Hollywood heavyweights.
During the finning process, 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.
Most of the demand for shark fins comes from Asian countries where it is used to make a gelatinous 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.
Some in California, including San Francisco mayoral candidate Senator Leland Yee, opposed the bill, saying it unfairly discriminated against the Chinese-American community. Polling suggested that 70 percent of Chinese-American voters in California support the bill.
“It is time to stop serving a soup that is driving sharks to extinction,” said Assemblymember Fong. ”The cultural issue is very minor compared to the major environmental devastation of eliminating sharks for our world’s oceans. Chinese Americans are environmentally conscious, we believe in harmony with nature, it is in our culture to support the protection of our environment.
California is said to be the largest source of demand for shark fins outside of Asia, so this bill represents a major step toward reducing pressure on shark populations. Once signed into law, California will follow Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, where similar legislation has previously passed.
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