Sacramento, CA - Today the California Senate acknowledged the importance of the ocean’s top predator, sharks, by voting to enact a ban on the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of shark fins in the state. Oceana applauds the Senate for taking action to halt California’s contribution to the global decline of shark species. 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 predator.
“Today is a landmark day for shark conservation around the globe as we are one step away from a sweeping West Coast ban on the trade of shark fins,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s Senior Pacific Director, referring to the bills already passed in Washington and Oregon this year, and Hawaii in May last year.
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.
“Arguably the most mysterious and intriguing animal, sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for over 400 million years and we have a responsibility to ensure their survival. It’s great to see that California is keeping its position and commitment to being an environmental leader,” said Ashley Blacow, Pacific Policy and Communications Coordinator with Oceana.
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, fins are being imported to the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place. The only way to really address California’s contribution to the global declines in shark populations is to address the market demand for fins in the state. Passage of this bill will help to protect global populations of at-risk shark species that are being targeted in unsustainable and unregulated fisheries worldwide.
AB 376 must next be signed by Governor Brown by October 9, 2011 in order to become law. Washington was the first West Coast state to pass similar legislation in May followed by Oregon in early August. West Coast legislation comes on the heels of related bills passed in Hawaii, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.