Photo by Willy Volk via Flickr CC (and our TreeHugger Flickr Pool)
Oregon's Governor John Kitzhaber signed bill HB 2838 last Thursday, appropriately during Shark Week, which bans the sale, trade and possession of shark fins. It follows Hawaii and Washington to hammer down on the shark fin trade, and helps with the federal government's legislation on shark finning in US waters. However, will this put any pressure on California to finally pass its own ban on shark fins? In June, California's own measure to ban the sale of shark fins passed the Assembly but we're still waiting to see it pass the Senate. Will seeing the other states that share the coastline along the Pacific finally push California into doing the right thing by sharks?
"With the global trade in shark fins pushing sharks toward extinction, it will take strong actions such as this to prevent us from making irreversible changes to our ocean ecosystems," Whit Sheard, senior advisor for Oceana, told the LA Times. "The bipartisan support for this bill once again demonstrates that support for healthy oceans is a non-partisan issue."
According to the article, "It is illegal for U.S. fishing boats to dock with shark fins on board unless they are attached to the carcass, but fins are imported to the U.S. from countries with less stringent protections."
China is a major importer of shark fins, and many traders purchase fins to ship elsewhere across the globe. Shark fin soup is a major component of Chinese cuisine, and is a practically required menu item for weddings and business events. However, it is a primary cause for the disastrous decline in shark populations, with many species facing extinction.
Some opponents of bans on shark fins argue that it is a cultural right to have shark fins available to them. The large communities of Chinese Americans have been vocal about their problem with the ban. But one must ask the question: When do sharks, and the survival of ecosystems and many species dependent on sharks, trump culture?
California's AB-376 goes up before the Senate Appropriations Committee August 15. We'll have to wait and see if the state takes a cue from Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, and puts sharks first.
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More on Shark Finning
Shark Week: An Explanation of Shark Finning
California Moves Closer to Banning Shark Fins, But The Debate Rages
Is China Finally Taking Steps To Ban Sharkfin Trade? Legislation Hits World's Largest Market for Fins