jerry-brown.jpgA bill banning the shark fin trade in California was signed into law today, marking a major victory for conservationists.

The California Shark Protection Act, AB 376, introduced by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, and Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, bans the sale, distribution and possession of shark fins in California.

“Finning,” the practice of removing shark fins for consumption, has led to substantial declines in shark populations worldwide, Gov. Jerry Brown said today after signing the bill.

“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,” said Brown. “Researchers estimate that some shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent, portending grave threats to our environment and commercial fishing.”

The bill, sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance, marks a major victory because California is the largest market for shark fins outside of Asia, and a gateway for shark fins sold all over the United States, said Ken Peterson, communications director for the aquarium. Similar bans have been passed in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Guam.

“It’s a great day for sharks and for anyone who cares about the oceans,” Peterson said. “It gives a lot of confidence to those of us who are working on shark conservation to thinkabout moving ahead at the federal level as well.”

Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures.

Shark fins can be worth more than $600 per pound and are more sought after than shark meat, which is worth about $1 per pound. The fins are removed and often the shark’s body is thrown back into the ocean where it slowly bleeds out and dies, according to Fong’s office.

“California is now a partner in the global effort to end the practice of finning and in the preservation of the shark population for generations to come,” Fong said.

“Californians can be proud of their role in giving these remarkable top predators a chance to recover their populations and helping to restore balance to our oceans,” said Huffman.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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