Senate Committee Passes Shark-Finning Bill

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Assemblymember Paul Fong (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

SACRAMENTO — The landmark California Shark Protection Act, AB 376, by Assemblymembers Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) passed out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water on June 28 with a 7-0 vote and is now headed to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

“Today, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water recognized what 76 percent of Californians and 70 percent of Chinese American voters in California have already recognized — that sharks are critical to the ocean’s health,” said Fong. “Furthermore, our state and federal laws against finning are toothless in international waters — that’s why these efforts to stop the importation and demand here in California are so urgent.”

The bill was passed by the Assembly on May 23.

Reaching upwards of $600 a pound, fins are sought after, as opposed to shark meat, which is approximately $1 per pound. Once the fins are removed, the shark is thrown overboard, often still alive. It sinks the bottom, to slowly bleed out and then die. The fins are then processed and dried and shipped for consumption.

Driving the demand for fins is shark fin soup because it is a favorable dish to serve at banquets and special events to show affluence. It is estimated that over 7 tons were imported last year.

As apex predators, sharks are at the top of the oceans’ food chain; once they are removed, all of the oceans’ species will fall like a house of cards, Fong said. “With scientists estimating 34 percent of the world’s sharks already extinct, and up to 99 percent of species decimated, we may be the generation that is responsible for killing off species that has been around for over 450 million years.”

“I applaud my colleagues on the Senate Natural Resources Committee who cast a powerful vote to save sharks and the ocean ecosystems that depend on them,” said Huffman.

Basketball star Yao Ming has appeared in a public service announcement urging the Chinese community to give up shark fin soup in order to save the environment. Other supporters of the bill include:

Organizations

Asian Americans for Community Involvement

Asian Law Alliance

Asian Pacific Islanders California Action Network

API Caucus of the California Democratic Party

Pan Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE)

Elected Officials

Nancy Bui, Sacramento Municipal Utilities District Board

Sue Chan, vice mayor, City of Fremont

Dr. Michael Chang, vice president, Santa Clara County Board of Education

David Chiu, president, San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Darrell Fong, Sacramento City Council

Ash Kalra, San Jose City Council

Otto Lee, Sunnyvale City Council

David Lim, San Mateo City Council

Henry Lo, Garvey School Board

Evan Low, Campbell City Council

Eric Mar, San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Steve Ngo, San Francisco Community College trustee

Phil Ting, San Francisco assessor

Betty Yee, State Board of Equalization

Community Leaders

Dennis Arguelles, executive director, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans

Tami Bui, California Commission on APIA Affairs

Elaine Chiao, former president, Asian Pacific State Employees Association

Sue Chen, CEO, Nova Medical Products

Deborah Ching

Ricky Choi, board member, TRUE PAC

Henry Der, former deputy superintendent of public instruction, California Department of Education

Bill Ong Hing, professor, University of San Francisco School of Law

Iris Ho, Humane Society

Dennis Huang, executive director, Asian Business Association

Georgette Imura, former president, Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project

Mariko Kahn, executive director, PACS

Keith Kamisugi, board member, Chinese for Affirmative Action

Walter Kawamoto

Judy Ki, retired California public school teacher

Alissa Ko, former president, California Young Democrats

Dan Kuramoto, founder, Hiroshima

Annie Lam, board member, TRUE PAC

James T. Lau, former director, California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

Eunsook Lee, former executive director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium

Tana Lepule, California Commission on APIA Affairs

Lisa Ling, journalist

Tam Ma, former president, My Sister’s House

Wayne Mayeda, professor of Asian American studies, CSU Sacramento

Dale Minami, civil rights attorney

Lindsey Nitta, president, Sacramento Young Democrats

Elena Ong

Paul Osaki, executive director, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California

Steve Owyang, civil rights attorney

Charles Phan, chef, The Slanted Door

David Ryu

Sylvia Tang, board member, TRUE PAC

Diane Ujiiye, former member, California Commission on APIA Affairs

Elaine Yamaguchi

Martin Yan, chef and TV personality

Belle Yang, author/artist

‘Cruelty Aspect’

In an interview with the Rafu Shimpo prior to passage of the bill in the Assembly, Fong said that although the bill has been controversial, with some calling it an attack on Chinese culture, a recent poll showed that 76 percent of California voters and 70 percent of Chinese American voters in California support AB 376.

An environmental group called Asian Pacific Americans for Ocean Harmony Alliance has been a major proponent of the bill, Fong said. “It’s a good group. A lot of people want to know how to get involved. I just say, ‘Join APAOHA.’ ”

The 11-member Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, of which Fong is a member, has not taken a position, however. Three members — Assemblymembers Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) and Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) and State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) — are opposed to the bill.

“That is a touchy Asian American issue because it does deal with a certain aspect of culture,” Fong acknowledged. “But the environmental devastation is so great that giving up a bowl of soup is minor compared to the ecological devastation that losing a top food predator can cause.”

He noted that there have also been movements to stop restaurants from serving foie gras, whose main ingredient is the liver of a duck or goose that has been force-fed. “There is that cruelty aspect. This one (finning) has the cruelty aspect and the endangered aspect.”

Fong added that even people who like shark fin soup will “probably be healthier if they don’t eat it because it’s not very healthy. It’s got high mercury content.”

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1 Comment

  1. Hey everyone, sharks in California need your help! There is a bill being debated in the Senate right now, AB 376, which aims to ban shark finning here, but it won’t pass without your voices! Please check out this page, it explains how to find your Senator and give them a call, and it will take less than five minutes. Please help preserve our beautiful sharks! Pass it on! 🙂

    http://www.causes.com/campaigns/158657?cause_id=119165#

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