Shark-fin soup just got one step closer to becoming illegal throughout California.
The state senate has approved a bill, which now only requires a signature from the governor, that bans the sale, purchase or possession of shark fins.
The high price placed on fins, which are coveted solely to meet the demand of the expensive soup, has led fishermen around the world to hunt sharks in staggering numbers, sometimes illegally, and often cutting the fins off while leaving the rest of the shark to drown. This practice, known as finning, is condemned as wasteful, cruel and, most significantly, unsustainable for the ocean ecosystems as it threatens to deplete the numbers of these top predators and spoil the natural balance of the seas.
While awareness about the controversial nature of shark-fin soup is growing in Asia, so is the wealth that fuels sales of the delicacy, especially in China, where the dish is still a symbol of status and a mainstay at Chinese wedding banquets.
In the U.S., finning is banned in federal waters, and Hawaii, Oregon and Washington have banned the trade of shark fin. With its 1.1 million ethnic Chinese residents, California is one of the most dominant importers of the fins outside of Asia, which would make the passage of this law is a big win for conservation groups that struggle to monitor the shark trade and persuade old-school Chinese-Americans to stop ordering the dish.
But the bill stops short of restricting other shark parts from being sold. Shark meat and skins are still fair game, which has raised questions of cultural discrimination that singles out a Chinese culinary tradition.
Governor Jerry Brown has 12 days to sign or veto the bill. If he does nothing, it will automatically become law and take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. (via Reuters)