Shark Savers congratulates California Senate for banning the shark fin trade

Posted on September 6, 2011
Written by: Shark Savers

Sharksavers125.jpgShark Savers is pleased to announce that the world’s embattled shark populations got a reprieve today as the California state Senate passed a historic bill to protect all shark species from the environmentally destructive shark fin trade. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 25 to 9. It now moves to Governor Jerry Brown to be signed.

The passing of AB 376 was an especially important vote as California represents the largest economy in the world to thus far take a strong stand against the shark fin trade. California joins with Hawaii, Washington and Oregon—states that already have shark fin bans in place—effectively closing down all remaining ports and markets of the United States west coast from contributing to the shark fin trade.

Authored by Assemblymember Paul Fong (D- Mountain View) and Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), California AB 376 makes it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin. The bill was sponsored by Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance and supported by a diverse coalition of organizations that included Shark Savers and thousands of individuals.

“Shark Savers is proud to have worked within a coalition of a great organizations and alongside the voters and legislators of California to bring about this landmark protection of sharks,” said Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director of Shark Savers. “Sharks deserve this win and the California people and legislature deserve to be congratulated for protecting not only sharks, but also the ocean ecosystems.”

Sharks have been shown to be important to overall ocean health because, as the ocean’s apex predators, they contribute to keeping other species’ populations healthier and in proportion. Marine biologists have warned that, when shark populations are destroyed, the overall health of the ocean ecosystem declines rapidly and can ultimately collapse – a principle known as “trophic cascade.”

As essential as sharks are to the oceans, they are being dramatically overfished, primarily to fill market demand for their valuable fins. Shark fins are used for shark fin soup, a luxury food item sometimes served at weddings and banquets.

Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year, many of which are targeted for their fins. Many shark populations have been decimated by as much as 90%. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that a full 1/3 of shark species face extinction. Sharks are especially vulnerable to aggressive overfishing because they reach sexual maturity only after years and produce relatively few offspring in a lifetime.

Polls indicated 70% of the Asian American community and 76% of California voters supported the shark fin ban. Despite this, AB 376 became an emotional battleground as shark fin lobbyists defended their interests and some members of the Asian community felt a shark fin ban unfairly impacted them.

However, Sue Chen, Director of Shark Savers, points out that, “Keeping shark populations healthy is in fact a powerful support of Asian culture and cuisine. Asian cuisine is rich in seafood. If you decimate the shark population, much of the seafood that we love in Asian cuisine and culture is certainly threatened. This is not an Asian issue, this is a human issue.”

A companion bill, AB 853. also passed that allow sales of shark fin until July 1, 2013 for all fin stock on-hand prior to Jan.1, 2012.

Sharks have shaped marine life in the oceans for more than 400 million years and are essential to the health of our oceans, which are the lifeblood of our planet. Today’s ban on the shark fin trade in California gives sharks another chance to continue this valuable role in the oceans and the overall health of their ecosystems.

For more information please visit www.sharksavers.org.


Shark Savers is a non-profit organization that campaigns to curb demand for shark fin soup, create safe havens for sharks, and advocate on the behalf of sharks. Shark Savers leverages the power of the diving and conservation communities to save sharks so that they may continue their 400 million year contribution toward the healthy balance of ocean ecosystems.

Petitions to ban the shark fin trade:

United States, excl. California: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/banthefin-US/

Canada: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/banthefin-CA/

References

  • Global estimates of shark catches using trade records from commercial markets, Shelley C. Clarke, Murdoch K. McAllister, E. J. Milner-Gulland, G. P. Kirkwood, Catherine G. J. Michielsens, David J. Agnew, Ellen K. Pikitch, Hideki Nakano and Mahmood S. Shivji, Ecology Letters, (2006) 9: 1115-1126
  • Third of open ocean sharks threatened with extinction, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, June 2009
  • Cascading top-down effects of changing oceanic predator abundances. Journal of Animal Ecology. Vol. 78. p. 699. Baum & Worm. 2009.
  • Collapse and Conservation of Shark Populations in the Northwest Atlantic, Science, Volume 299, Julia K. Baum, Ransom A. Myers, Daniel G. Kehler, Boris Worm, Shelton J. Harley, Penny A. Doherty, 2003.
  • Life Histories and Vulnerability to Exploitation of Elasmobranchs: Inferences from Elasticity, Perturbation and Phylogenetic Analyses -- Frisk et al. 2005
  • Cascading Effects of the Loss of Apex Predatory Sharks from a Coastal Ocean. Ransom A. Myers, et al. Science 315, 1846 (2007).
  • Research Shows Overfishing of Sharks Key Factor in Coral Reef Decline, Scripps News April 11, 2005
  • The effects of fishing on sharks, rays, and chimaeras (chondrichthyans), and the implications for marine ecosystems. - ICES Journal of Marine Science, 57: 476-494.See p. 488 for the tuna reference. Stevens, J. D., Bonfil, R., Dulvy, N. K., and Walker, P. A. 2000
  • High apex predator biomass on remote Pacific islands, Charlotte Stevenson, Laure S. Katz, Fiorenza Micheli, Barbara Block, Kimberly W. Heiman, Chris Perle, Kevin Weng, Robert Dunbar, Jan Witting
  • California imports and re-exports shark fins from all over the world, including Asia.4 Approximately 85% of all U.S. dried shark fin imports come through California. National Marine Fisheries Service: 2008-2010 Import Data:http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/trade/cumulative_data/TradeDataDistrict.html
  • Los Angeles and San Francisco are recognized points of entry for the shark fin trade. 2010 NOAA Report to Congresshttp://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/domes_fish/ReportsToCongress/SharkFinningReport10.pdf
  • California survey indicating voter and Asian American support for AB376: Monterrey Bay Aquarium, May 2011