Controversial bill aims to ban sale of shark fins

February 14, 2011 7:29:52 PM PST
A traditional delicacy in the Chinese community is in jeopardy as state lawmakers consider outlawing the sale of shark fins.

It can be found in many restaurants and stores in Chinatown. There is no question that it is part of the Chinese culture, but legislators say they have introduced the ban because killing sharks and taking their fins is depleting the population.

The sharks are caught, their fins are cut off then, they are thrown back into the ocean.

"So the shark just spirals down, bleeding to the bottom of the ocean where it dies. What a waste of life on Earth," said John McCosker with the California Academy of Sciences.

He also says it is wreaking havoc on the ecology.

WildAid founder Peter Knights said, "This is like a deck of cards, and once we knock one over, the whole lot can go behind it."

Shark fin is considered a delicacy and it is pricey, costing up to $85 a bowl. The economic boom in China has increased the demand there and the shark population is declining. Assembly members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman say their legislation is aimed at reducing demand.

"We're trying to give a message to the rest of the world that sharks fin is not healthy, not good," Fong told ABC7.

State Senator Leland Yee says that while he is opposed to illegal finning, he will fight the legislation because it is insensitive to Chinese culture.

"The solution is an overarching one, overreaching one, and what we're saying is that find a better solution rather than something that somehow takes away the practice of our culture and heritage," he said.

In addition, there are legal sales of shark fins, part of the package if someone catches a shark locally.

"It's not cost-effective just to go catch sharks, but when they do catch a shark, they're going to use it," explained Michael Kwong of Hop Woo Co.

You will find it on the menu at most Chinese restaurants, like at the Far East Caf?. It is shredded and served in a thick broth. Chefs call it one of four treasures of Chinese cuisine, but not everyone finds it a treasure. Charles Phan of the Slanted Door says he will not be serving it.

"But, the Earth comes first, so therefore, I'm standing behind not serving shark fin soup," he said.

Restaurant owners say that if the ban goes into effect, it will have an economic impact. The League of Conversation Voters approve of the ban. Last year, they gave Sen. Lee a 100 percent approval rate. They say that with his opposition to the ban, he is starting the year off on the wrong side.


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