Yes We Did! California Shark Fin Ban Passes Senate

Posted on September 8, 2011
Written by: Shark Savers

On Tuesday, September 6, the California Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass AB 376, which will make the sale and possession of shark fins illegal in California. All it needs now is Governor Jerry Brown's signature to become law.

Only a couple of weeks ago, there were fears the legislation was dead. But thousands of Californians and dozens of environmental organizations banded together to put enough pressure on reluctant politicians in Sacramento to cross the finish line.

This was truly a grassroots campaign. I'm reminded of a favorite mantra from the 2008 Obama campaign, "One Voice."

One voice can change a room.
And if a voice can change a room, it can change a city.
And if it can change a city, it can change a state.
And if it can change a state, it can change a nation.
And if it can change a nation, it can change the world.

 

Sue Chen. Photo: Eric Cheng For me, that voice belongs to Shark Savers' Sue Chen, an amazing activist from Manhattan Beach, who's been working countless hours to spearhead this campaign in Southern California. It was an editorial she and Mark Gold wrote for the Daily Breeze which detailed Ted Lieu's opposition to the shark fin ban, that spurred my involvement:

"The most critical senator on this issue is the South Bay's own Ted Lieu, one of the few Asian-American members of the Legislature. But Lieu has not supported a legislative ban on the sale of shark fin products. Instead, his suggested alternatives include banning fishing for sharks off California or even banning the sale of all shark products in the state.

Both of these ideas may sound positive on first blush, but they do not have any realistic chance of being passed in Sacramento. And you can imagine how popular these amendments would be with the state fishing industry. More important, shark finning globally, not any activity by our local fisheries, is the major cause of the decimation of shark populations. A state bill that specifically targets the sales of shark fins will have the greatest impact on helping critical shark populations recover."

Bryson.jpgAfter reading that, I knew I had to act. Being that Ted Lieu is my State Senator, I thought he might be interested in knowing that many of his constituents opposed his position. So I started a petition at Change.org and sent a message out to the Venice For Change 5,000+ district-wide email list asking for signatures.

What I didn't know then was that Lieu's amendments were on the verge of killing the bill in committee. Some of the Senators, who weren't knowledgeable about the intricacies of the shark fin trade, wavered. Their previously favorable votes disappeared.

What I didn't know then was that Lieu's amendments were on the verge of killing the bill in committee. Some of the Senators, who weren't knowledgeable about the intricacies of the shark fin trade, wavered. Their previously favorable votes disappeared.

But in just a few days, over 900 people signed the petition. Every signature triggered an email which went directly to Senator Lieu's office. Lieu suddenly began engaging on Twitter and with constituents via email. In the end, he refused to vote for the bill. But he did agree not to push his amendments.

Five Senators voted to approve the bill in committee. The exact number it needed to pass to get it on the floor for a final vote.

One voice can change a room.
And if a voice can change a room, it can change a city.
And if it can change a city, it can change a state.
And if it can change a state, it can change a nation.
And if it can change a nation, it can change the world.

 

Even as we wait for Governor Brown to sign this bill into law, activists are already talking about their next actions - in Toronto, Vancouver, and even Hong Kong. Our shared goal is a world-wide ban on the sale and possessions of shark fins, and an end to a brutal and wasteful slaughter.

Thanks to you, Sue Chen, and countless others who never stopped believing, that reality is one step closer. The day the bill passed, Sue Chen sent out the following message to the amazing activists she connected with in this fight.

"Tears are rolling...this has been a personal mission and one that I had no idea would be so emotional and inspiring. Over 150,000+ Californians took action for what they believed in - participating in numerous petitions, calling Senators, shark rallies, newspaper comments, twitter wars and more. This was truly the voice of the people overwhelming and defeating very determined and powerful moneyed interests in Sacramento.

Thank you for listening to all of my shark talk these last few months and helping me believe that this could get done!

Special love and hugs goes to my 4 year old nephew Bryson, who personally evangelized to over 100 strangers, raised $1,000 and came up with a master plan to take away the shark hooks from the fisherman, hide them in his corn garden and punish the shark finners with a time-out of 100 minutes.

That's passion and why we do what we do."


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