"Finning," the practice of cutting off a shark's fin and then tossing the body back, is already illegal in the United States. There are no endangered shark species in the U.S. and there are strong protection measures. But the new law aims to reduce demand that fuels bad behavior and threatens shark populations in other parts of the world.
Shark fin soup is a delicacy in traditional Chinese cuisine, but beginning Jan. 1, Assembly Bill 376 prohibits the sale, purchase or possession of shark fins in California.
The Chinatown Neighborhood Association has filed a lawsuit to block the bill in federal court, saying the law was sold to voters with faulty facts and misconceptions.
"What the law does is to say that you can in fact catch a shark right now with this particular law, but you have to throw away the fin, you cannot hold the fin, you can use other parts of the shark, but you cannot have the shark fin," State Sen. Leland Yee said.
Yee joined the CNA in Chinatown Friday to say he's worried about the small importers who might go out of business.
Supporters of the bill say they are trying to stop the cruel, illegal practice known as "finning." But Yee and the CNA say if that's the case, this law is not the best approach. They feel it's discriminatory.
"You can go to Costco, or you can go to other stores and have shark steak, and yet you cannot have shark fin, so that's the argument that's being made now, that there's a sense of injustice, a sense of discrimination," Yee said.
"It is outrageous and also unacceptable that consuming shark fin can lead toa jail term of six months, while possessing a small quantity of marijuana in public is not illegal," Organization for Justice and Equality spokesperson Frank Lee said.
South Bay Assm. Paul Fong, D-Mountain View, co-authored the bill.
The fins are the problem," he said. "They're finning outside of the U.S. waters and they're killing the sharks at a rate of 73 million per year and at this rate they'll go extinct by the year 2048."
The CNA says it will take its fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.