Today Governor Brown signed AB 376 into law, which makes it illegal to sell, trade, possess, or distribute shark fins within California. Oceana applauds Governor Brown for acknowledging the importance of the ocean’s top predator and for taking action which will halt California’s contribution to the global decline of shark species. Building on recent bans in Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii, this coastwide ban on the shark fin trade will help to protect global populations of at-risk shark species that are being targeted in unsustainable and unregulated fisheries worldwide.
“Today is a landmark day for shark conservation around the globe” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s Senior Pacific Director. “The leadership shown by legislatures and governors of California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii sends a strong message that the entire US West Coast will no longer play a role in the global practice of shark finning that is pushing many shark species to the brink of extinction.”
Assemblymember Fong (D- Mountain View) and Assemblymember Huffman (D- San Rafael), the bill authors, deserve special recognition for bringing this issue to the forefront and for their unwavering commitment to protecting the ocean’s apex predators.
“Sharks play a vital role in ocean food webs and the West Coast ban on the shark fin trade is a critical step to ensuring their survival,” said Dr. Geoff Shester, Oceana’s California Program Director. “The West Coast ban will send a strong, clear message as well as reduce demand of shark fins associated with the killing of up to a quarter million sharks annually.”
AB 376 was signed with an auxiliary bill AB 853 that allows one and a half years for existing shark fin stocks to be purged and allows minor possession exemptions such as for taxidermy and research purposes by licensed research institutions. The bills take effect January 1, 2012.
Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup. In this wasteful and cruel practice, a shark’s fins are sliced off while at sea and the remainder of the animal is thrown back into the water to die. Without fins, sharks bleed to death, drown, or are eaten by other species. In recent decades some shark populations have declined by as much as 99%. Removing sharks from ocean ecosystems can destabilize the ocean food web and even lead to declines in populations of other species, including commercially-caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food web.
While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the issue of the shark fin trade. Therefore, shark fins are being imported to the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place.
Washington was the first West Coast state to pass similar legislation in May followed by Oregon in early August. The West Coast legislation comes on the heels of related bills passed in Hawaii, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.