Sharks -- and healthy oceans -- won a big victory on Monday, May 23.
That's when the California State Assembly, on a final vote of 65-8, passed a bill that bans the possession and sale of shark fins in the state. AB 376, co-authored by Chinese-American legislator Paul Fong of Cupertino, now heads to the State Senate, where the first committee vote is expected in June.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a lead sponsor of the bill, along with a broad coalition of environmental and Asian Pacific American groups -- including Chinese-American chefs like Charles Phan and Martin Yan, and figures such as NBA star Yao Ming.
The vote reflected the sentiments of most Californians who, according to an aquarium-commissioned poll of registered voters, overwhelmingly support the ban.
Acknowledging the concerns of restaurant owners and others involved in the fin trade, Assemblymember Fong amended the bill to give businesses until January 1, 2013 to sell off any stocks of shark fins they already have on hand.
The fins are primarily used to make shark fin soup -- a luxury item in Chinese cuisine that's sometimes on the menu for festive and ceremonial occasions.
If the bill becomes law, California would join Hawaii and Washington state in outlawing the shark fin trade -- an unregulated international fishery that is decimating shark populations worldwide and killing tens of millions of sharks each year. Oregon is considering similar legislation.
Most of the sharks are killed just for their fins, and the sharks themselves tossed overboard -- dead or dying -- so the boats have more room to pack in more fins.