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.
This year, California Assemblymen Paul Fong and Jared Huffman introduced AB 376, a bill that would ban the sale and possession of shark fins in California. The bill passed, 65-8, with bipartisan support in the Assembly, but has hit rough waters in the State Senate.
My state Senator Ted Lieu does not support the bill. Lieu, who is Asian-American, claims a ban on shark fins unfairly targets that community’s cultural heritage. (Recent research contradicts that claim of discrimination. A poll of Chinese Americans commissioned by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and conducted by a nationally recognized polling research firm showed that 70 percent of Chinese Americans interviewed support the proposed legislation banning shark fin.)
Instead, he’s proposing changes to the bill that would make it both impossible to pass and impossible to enforce.
Senator Lieu is proposing amendments to the bill, including a ban on shark fishing in California waters and banning the sale of all shark meat and products.
Both of these ideas may sound positive on first blush, but they are unworkable. Law enforcement does not have the ability to determine if fins were obtained in California waters, and banning shark fishing in California would face stiff opposition by the recreational and commercial fishing lobby in Sacramento. They would 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.