Gov. Jerry Brown announced today that he has signed legislation banning the possession and sale of shark fins in California.According to government data, approximately 85 percent of dried shark fin imports to the United States came through California last year, making the state a hub of the US shark fin market.
Assembly Bill 376, by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, is meant to combat "shark finning," an illegal fishing practice used to procure the main ingredient in shark fin soup.
Brown said in a statement that he signed the bill "in the interest of future generations," noting estimates that shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent.
"The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans," Brown said.
Brown also signed Assembly Bill 853, a companion measure to allow stores to continue selling current stock and exempt sharks legally caught by California fishermen, that was crafted as part of a deal to win the bill's passage.
The shark-fin ban, which was the subject of intense lobbying by environmental and animal-rights groups, attracted high-profile support. Brown mentioned recently that he had received a call from business mogul Richard Branson urging him to sign the bill.
Critics argued that the bill was discriminatory because it targeted a traditional Chinese delicacy and that the ban would would hurt Asian stores and restaurants owners.
California is the fourth state ban the sale and possession of shark fins, Washington State, Oregon and Hawaii have all passed similar bans. Globally, the Pacific nation of Palau created a shark sanctuary two years ago, this summer Chile passed a national ban on shark fining. More recently, Mexico and the Marshall Islands have announced plans for new shark protections.