February 25th, 2011 by admin
California has the incredible opportunity to once again be a leader in animal protection and environmental conservation with a new bill that would ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in California, Assembly Bill (AB) 376. Introduced by Assembly members Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), this bill follows a similar ban in Hawaii passed in 2010 and could help start a much needed cascade effect of legislation to protect the top predator in the ocean.
Shark fining is a process where the fins and tails of sharks are cut off and the remainder of the often still living fish is thrown back into the ocean. Sharks then sink to the bottom, unable to swim and die a slow, agonizing death. Every year, tens of millions of sharks are killed in this manner for shark fin soup, a tasteless, Asian delicacy. This unnecessary dish has been a major contributor to the near collapse of many shark species world-wide as well as in California. Sharks maintain the natural balance in our oceans marine food web. Scientists are warning that the massive decline of sharks is having a devastating effect on the marine ecosystem.
At the heart of the debate is “culture”. Assemblyman Fong, an Asian-American, supports the bill and is fighting for the preservation of the oceans and the sharks. Senator Leland Yee, also an Asian-American, feels that the ban is an attack on the Asian culture as shark fin soup is a traditional Asian delicacy. It is true that cultures and traditions should be respected and preserved, but not if that tradition is causing suffering or environmental destruction. If sentient beings are being exploited, coerced, or are victims of genocide, the global community must step in and aid the oppressed. If a tradition is causing unbalance in the ecosystem, international intervention is needed and necessary- for the ultimate survival of the culture effected. Sharks are being hunted to extinction, and what befalls the oceans, affects us all. The health of the ecosystem is not confined by cultural boundaries and the planet must be protected by the international community.
There is also the culture of the shark to consider. Sharks are amazing creatures in their own right and deserve to live free of human imposed suffering. There are more than 350 different kinds of sharks and most sharks as we know them today developed about 64 million years ago during the age of the dinosaurs. After mating, some female sharks can retain the male’s sperm in their bodies for use when she is ready to reproduce, even if that does not happen until next season. Lantern sharks can glow in the dark. Sharks have a unique culture all to themselves that deserves to be preserved for future generations.
AB 376 will give important protection to sharks to help preserve the ecosystem and biodiversity of the California coast and the world’s oceans. Please support this important legislation and if you are a California resident, click here for more information on how to help .