Published on September 30th, 2011 | by Karen Lee


California Senate Makes Shark Finning Illegal


I recently wrote about Chef Gordon Ramsay’s reaction to having Shark Fin Soup for the first time, on our sister site, Blue Living Ideas. Ramsay recorded a video, clearly verbalizing his feelings about this cruel fishing practice. Some scenes are a little gruesome but Ramsay’s “colorful” language will make you understand how inhumane shark finning is, if you can’t bear to watch the whole video, like I did, the first time.

What’s the big deal about Shark Fin Soup?

Shark finning is practice of cutting off the fins and tails of live sharks to be sold or distributed while the rest of the shark is thrown back into the ocean to bleed to death because the actual shark meat is not valuable at all. Shark finning is illegal in some countries but secretly, shark fishing boats still practice shark finning as it’s a  profitable industry. Shark fins, exported to Asia for Shark Fin Soup, can fetch up to 500 euros ($676) per kilogram. A single Whale Shark pectoral fin can sell for up to US $15,000.

Ramsay’s disdain for Shark Fin Soup is shared by Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder, and Yao Ming, the Chinese basketball star. They are trying to urge restaurants in China to stop serving Shark Fin soup. Ming admits having tried Shark Fin Soup but had no idea how shark fins were harvested for this delicacy, as most shark fin soup lovers.

Branson states that with China’s economy growing exponentially every year, the wealthy Chinese will demand this exotic and “prestigious” delicacy resulting in more decline in shark’s population. China consumes 90% of all shark fins in the world for this soup and the demand doesn’t seem to be declining.

The thing is, according to Ramsay, it doesn’t even taste good. So what is the big deal? The big deal seems to be just that it’s considered to be food for the wealthy – and rightfully so since it can fetch from $80 to $100 for a bowl – it’s a mere status symbol even though it doesn’t even taste good or have any nutritional value. In fact, shark fins might even have high content of toxic mercury. It’s ironic then, that some people think that Shark Fin Soup is an aphrodisiac when mercury can cause infertility.

Why is saving sharks important for the environment?

According to SharkSavers.Org, sharks have existed on this planet for 450 million years, surviving 5 major extinctions. But currently, as many as 73 million are killed by the shark finning industry. It is estimated that 90 percent of all large sharks have been wiped out, and 93-99 percent of all large sharks off the east coast of North America are gone (tiger sharks, bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, etc.).

No sharks are protected internationally. Only a handful of countries manage shark fisheries. Enforcement is very difficult. And the sad part is that most consumers are unaware of how fins are obtained or where they come from or about overfishing or about the fact that shark finning is illegal in so many countries.

The truth is, our ocean NEEDS sharks to balance the ocean’s ecosystem. The food cycle in the ocean is a delicate balance and without sharks, there will be overpopulation in certain species and those that live with the sharks, symbiotically, will be gone, along with the shark population, if we dont’ protect them.

Sign the petition to make shark finning illegal in California has a petition you can fill out to urge Governor Brown to make shark finning illegal in California. The California Senate already passed the bill AB376 which makes shark finning and importing shark fin products illegal and is waiting for Governor Brown to sign the bill.

Shark finning is illegal already in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Guam and Northern Marian Islands.

We can add California to the list of West Coast states that ban this cruel practice of fishing.

[CC Image by StormyDog via Flickr]

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About the Author

Karen lives a simple, frugal, green life and shares her eco tips and news on ecokaren and is a co-founder of Green Sisterhood, a network of community of green women bloggers, making change. When she's not managing Green Sisterhood or blogging on ecokaren, she is a chauffeur to two greenagers, wife to an accidental recycler, master chef to hungry locavores, seamstress, knitter, and dumpster diver, not necessarily in that order.

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