California governor signs shark fin ban into law

This past Friday, California governor Jerry Brown announced the passing of a new law that many environmentalists (as well as sharp-toothed, finned ocean creatures) should be exuberant about: a ban on the sale or use of shark fins, starting on Jan. 1, 2012.

So what is shark finning? According to OceanicDefense.org, it is the “removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass,” which is done so that the fishermen don’t have to be inconvenienced with transporting the entire shark. The shark is usually still alive after the finning process and as it falls to the bottom of the water, where it has no chance of survival without its fins. OceanicDefense points out that this happens to approximately 100 million sharks each year – no age or species spared.

This is clearly a brutal practice, one that Brown described well in a statement about the passing of California’s law, titled AB376.

“The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans,” said Governor Brown. “Researchers estimate that some shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent, portending grave threats to our environment and commercial fishing. In the interest of future generations, I have signed this bill.”

California follows the lead of several other states (Hawaii, Oregon and Washington) with the ban. The practice is also illegal in Guam.

So what’s the point of torturing sharks for their fins? According to SharkSavers.org, “shark fin soup is served by well-meaning hosts at business dinners, banquets, and weddings in Chinese societies throughout the world,” as it is considered a “source of good health and a symbol of prosperity.” But along with how destructive its production is for the shark population, the soup is also quite unhealthy due to high levels of mercury.

I commend Gov. Jerry Brown for signing this new law; however, I must point out that it isn’t perfect. The Washington Post mentions:

Brown signed another bill… AB853, that allows existing stocks of on-hand shark fins to be sold until July 1, 2013. It also makes it clear that sport fishermen who catch a shark can still eat the fin or have the shark stuffed and mounted as a trophy.

It also clarifies that the ban would not affect stuffing and mounting of sharks, nor the donation of fins to research or medical institutions.

Still, this was a much-needed law and I hope that it makes a significant dent in the shark finning industry.

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~ by FSVSF Admin on 10 October, 2011.

One Response to “California governor signs shark fin ban into law”

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