Shark Fin Banned in California

Despite having a high mercury content and being harvested in a way considered cruel by animal groups, shark fin is popularly used in a Chinese soup consumed for birthdays, weddings, and other special occasions. Now, it's officially banned in California.
Shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy; walk into certain restaurants in San Francisco's Chinatown, and you're guaranteed to find it--but not for much longer. Last week, California governor Jerry Brown signed a law banning the sale of shark fins. It's a move that is being celebrated by environmentalists, but some Chinese Americans are complaining that the law is an attack on their culture.

The process of shark finning is brutal, to say the least--fisherman catch sharks, slice off their tails and fins, and toss the sharks back into the water, where they quickly die. The practice has caused shark populations in some areas to drop by up to 90%. It's especially prevalent in California, where 85% of U.S. shark fin consumption occurs. And when sharks die, it disrupts entire ocean ecosystems. Sharks are one of the top predators controlling fish populations, so when they're gone, there is an out of whack relationship between fish and plankton.

"We applaud Governor Brown for signing AB 376," writes Bill Wong, a member of the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance and creator of a petition on that helped lead the charge for the law. "It puts California at the forefront of the global effort to save sharks led by a broad coalition of Asian Pacific Americans, conservationists, animal rights activists, commercial fishermen, business leaders and artists. The passage of this bill may just be the tipping point that will preserve the shark species and the ocean ecosystem." We contacted Wong for further comment, but have yet to hear back.

California's new law may be one of the last chances to save sharks, but it's provoking ire from Chinese American restaurant and shop owners, who claim that the ban will put a big dent in their business. Dried shark fin sells for over $2,000 a pound, and it's considered both a status symbol and a way to celebrate big occasions. One Chinese restauranteur tells the L.A. Times that his main business is dishing out shark fin soup, and that everything else is secondary. He is closing his restaurant at the end of the year.

Link | Image credit Relgar

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I've never seen shark fin on the menu around here, but I've just checked and it isn't banned. This would suggest that there is no demand.

I feel you could read this story a different way. The fact that the soup has has to be banned suggests there is considerable demand. California should be proud that they have banned shark fin, but they should also be ashamed that there are clearly still many people in the state who want to eat this.
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Killing an animal to take just one small part of it's body is cruel and wasteful. It doesn't matter what culture it is part of. That culture needs to change very quickly.
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