California’s Bill to Ban Shark Fins Passes Committee; Next Stop: Senate Floor!

Posted by: Elizabeth Maksymonko

Everyone would agree that sharks are amazing creatures – these powerful predators of the sea have been around for almost 450 million years, surviving through a few mass extinctions. Sharks have been the ultimate survivors – until now, that is. Many people are fearful of sharks, but thanks to overfishing, it’s sharks that should be afraid of people. One of the biggest threats to sharks can be found in a practice called “finning,” but now, one of the largest consumers of shark fins, California, is taking steps to ban this horrendous practice.

Shark finning is a gruesome and inhumane process that involves cutting off the fins of a live shark and dropping the rest of the body back into the ocean where the shark drowns or bleeds to death. Shark meat is not worth as much, so the body is thrown overboard to make way for more fins, which can sell for $600 per pound. Many of these fins are used for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy – the soup itself can run as much as $100 a bowl.

Finning has destroyed shark populations in recent years: up to 73 million sharks are killed each year only for their fins. Scientists now say as many as 90% of the sharks in the open oceans have disappeared. Because they’re large apex predators, sharks are slow to mature, so they haven’t been able to bounce back from the overfishing, and if we continue at our levels of fishing and finning now, sharks could be gone within a generation. There’s some good news for sharks, though – throughout the world, people are recognizing this threat, and finning and the sale of shark fins has been banned in many countries, as well as in Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Now California, the largest consumer of shark fins outside of Asia, is also beginning to step up.

Assembly Bill 376, introduced by Assemblymembers Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), would ban the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins. People holding a commercial fishing license would be exempted, but it would be illegal for restaurants and retail outlets to have fins. Violators would be guilty of a misdemeanor and face fines from $100 to $1,000. The bill, which was approved by the Assembly 65-8, will now be sent to the Senate floor after passing through committee. Previously, the bill was held in suspense file for 10 days, which is a holding place for bills that carry appropriations over a specified dollar amount. Last Thursday, however, the bill was voted out of committee, marking a huge victory for all in support of this important bill.

Banning shark fins just makes sense: it’s not just bad for the sharks and marine ecosystem, but also is bad for human health. The fins are loaded with mercury and heavy metals that are 42 times higher than safe levels for humans. All of these facts make it obvious why the tide has been turning on this issue and the number of supporters of the California bill continues to grow. These supporters range from celebrities such as basketball superstar Yao Ming and actress Bo Derek to organizations like the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance and many more.

It’s exciting to see this bill picking up steam, and we’ll be following its progress as it is discussed on the Senate floor. Of course, it’s important for our elected officials to know we support getting rid of this cruel practice, so to all you Californians, make sure you continue to let your Senators hear your feelings on the issue. This is one huge step in preserving our oceans for future generations, so let’s get this bill passed!

Date Posted: August 29, 2011 @ 11:26 am Comments Off

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