State Shark Protection Bill Is on the Governor's Desk
• Measure Is Response to Finning
BY KAYLA BROWN
The California Shark Protection Act, AB 376, was passed with a bipartisan vote of 25-9, on the Senate floor Sept. 6, and is now awaiting Governor Brown's signature.
Assemblymembers Paul Fong and Jared Huffman developed AB376 to ensure the protection of endangered shark species from the practice of shark finning.
Shark finning is described as the catching of sharks, removal of their fins for commercial use, and the disposal of the rest of the live animal into the ocean. Once definned, sharks succumb to a slow sinking death.
According to a press release from the State Assembly, "Driving the demand for fins is shark fin soup because it is a favorable dish to serve at banquets and special events to show affluence." Shark fins also serve purposes in Chinese traditions and as medical elixirs.
Considering the cultural impact that the banning of shark fins could cause, Assemblymember Fong spoke on behalf of the Chinese American community stating, "[we] are environmentally conscious… we believe in harmony with nature, [and] it is in our culture to support the protection of our environment."
Fong added, "It is time to stop serving a soup that is driving sharks to extinction. The cultural issue is very minor compared to the major environmental devastation of eliminating sharks from our world's oceans."
Correspondingly, local environmental group Heal the Bay, has taken a strong stance against shark finning, claiming it to be a "ruthless practice" contributing to "the near collapse of shark populations worldwide, including in California."
The significant absence of sharks from our oceans is expected to have considerable effects on the ecosystem.
State representatives claim that "up to 99 percent" of the shark species have been "decimated," and that "we may be the generation that is responsible for killing off a species that has been in existence for over 450 million years."
With AB376 awaiting Brown's approval, Assemblymember Huffman leaves anti-finning forces with high hopes, stating, "We are one critical step closer to ending California's role in the destruction of shark species and to giving these remarkable top predators a chance to recover their populations and restore some balance to our oceans."
If Governor Brown signs AB376, the new legislature will restrict all possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins in the state of California.