Approximately 73 million sharks per year are killed to provide fins for shark fin soup, a luxury popular in the Cantonese community. The soup can sell for upwards of $100 a bowl.
The vast majority of fins are obtained using the barbaric practice of landing the shark, cutting off the fins and releasing the mutilated live shark back into the ocean to die. As a result, many nations, including the United States, have banned the practice of shark finning in federal waters, but the laws have been largely ineffective because shark finning is legal in many other parts of the world, and the economic incentive to poach is enormous.
Recently, the states of Hawaii, Oregon and Washington banned the sale of shark fin products. The logic was similar to the successful approach to reduce the poaching of elephants for their tusks. By eliminating the demand for the valued body part from vulnerable species, populations have the opportunity to rebound in the wild.
This year, California Assemblymen Paul Fong and Jared Huffman introduced a similar bill, AB 376, in our state. The bill passed, 65-8, with bipartisan support in the Assembly but has hit rough waters in the Senate.
State Senator Ted Lieu does not support the bill, claiming a ban on shark fins unfairly targets Chinese-American cultural heritage. Instead, he's proposed watering down the bill by just banning fishing for sharks off California or banning the sale of all shark products.
Both of these ideas may sound positive on first blush, but they are either unenforceable or do not address the problem. Law enforcement does not have the ability to determine which fins are obtained in foreign waters. Banning the sale of all shark products in California would face stiff opposition by the recreational and commercial fishing lobby in Sacramento and scuttle the bill.
Californians are the No. 1 consumers of shark fin soup outside of Asia, and our state is a significant entry point for fins trafficked to Asia. A state bill that specifically targets the sales of shark fins will have the greatest impact on helping critical shark populations recover.
Tell Ted Lieu to support CA Assembly Bill 376 as proposed, and end the wasteful and cruel slaughter of sharks.