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Culture, species survival in the mix in battle over shark fin bill

on March 23, 2011

Many in the Bay Area’s Chinese community find themselves at odds with new legislation aimed at banning the sale and import of shark fin, the main ingredient of the Chinese delicacy known as shark fin soup.

But environmentalists and politicians, including State Assemblymen Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) site the declining populations of sharks worldwide as the reason for introducing Assembly Bill (AB) 376, which—unlike the federal ban on the shark finning—aims to stop the practice at the market place.

The bill is now being reviewed by attorneys and may see a vote by a state assembly committee within the next month.

Roberto Daza and Major Tian spoke with an expert from the California Academy of Sciences about the impact that the demand for shark fins is having on the survival of shark species, as well as with people who either support or oppose the ban.

You can read other Oakland North coverage about the reaction from people in Oakland’s Chinatown here.


  1. Eric Mills on March 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Good news on the shark front! AB 376, co-authored by Assemblymembers Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), & Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), passed the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee on March 22 in a unanimous 13:0 vote. There was NO opposition to the bill, either from those present in the audience, or in writing. And support also came from an encouraging number of Asian-Americans. This is NOT a “racial” issue. It’s a matter of horrendous animal cruelty, and protecting the ocean environment. (Thanks are also due to Fong and Huffman using the email pattern below.)

    AB 376 now goes to the 17-member Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Felipe Fuentes (D-Arleta). If successful there (as expected), the bill will then go to the Assembly floor (80 members).

    SUPPORT LETTERS ARE NEEDED NOW. Email Chairman Fuentes:

    All members may be emailed using the same pattern above. Other members are Diane Harkey (San Juan Capistrano); Bob Blumenfield (Van Nuys); Steve Bradford (Inglewood); Charles Calderon (City of Industry); Nora Campos (San Jose); Mike Davis (L.A.); Tim Donnelly (Claremont); Mike Gatto (Burbank); Isadore Hall (Compton); Jerry Hill (San Mateo); Ricardo Lara (Southgate); Holly Mitchell (Culver City); Jim Nielsen (Redding); Chris Norby (Brea); Jose Solorio (Anaheim); Don Wagner (Irvine).


    Thanks for everyone’s efforts. Save the sharks, save the ocean environment.

    Eric Mills, coordinator

  2. Yvonne Chu on March 23, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    I’m a Chinese immigrant who grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong. My parents, who are still in Hong Kong, run a business, which means I grew up eating a lot of shark fin soup.

    Shark fin is not a cultural delicacy that has been singled out to be banned – foie gras has already been banned in California. Even China is considering a ban: Ding Liguo, deputy to the National People’s Congress, proposed that China’s top legislature ban the trade of shark fin.

    If we can “sell, offer for sale, trade or distribute” shark fin, then illegal shark-finning will continue unabated. The shark fin trade has a lot of similarities to the ivory trade, and the only way to stop illegal shark-finning is to cut the demand.

    For instance, even though all the right legislation is in place in the Galapagos (shark fin exports are illegal, shark fishing is illegal, longlining is illegal), illegal shark-finning still happens, and happens a lot []. Fins are often separated from the rest of the shark and are impossible to i.d. without elaborate DNA testing. (In addition, the species may be legal but come from an illegal source where animals are protected.) DNA analysis is a costly and laborious process and cannot be used to screen sharks. []

    Most Chinese I know support the ban on shark fin trade because we understand the long-term consequences of decimating sharks, which are apex predators and play an important role in keeping the ocean ecosystem healthy.

    We don’t know all of the consequences of decimating sharks yet. For a while people were killing bats because to them bats are useless, scary blood-suckers. Now we know that some can eat 3x their body weight in mosquitoes each night. Similarly we have to be careful with the ocean ecosystem. In the ocean phytoplankton produces half of the world’s supply of oxygen.

    I urge everyone to write in support of the shark fin ban to: Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes and committee, and your assemblymember and senator. More information at: and

  3. Clement Lee 李銳華 on April 14, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Many Chinese supports the ban. Please visit our facebook page: “Chinese United In Support of CA Shark Fin Ban”

    不少華人是支持這個魚翅禁令的。請到訪 facebook 專頁『全球華人支持加州立法禁售魚翅』

  4. […] But environmentalists say that illegal shark finning remains a severe threat to the declining global shark population. More than 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins. Although only three shark species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), many scientists believe that one third of all shark species are endangered. David McGuire, a field researcher of California Academy of Science, said in a previous interview with Oakland North that if the shark population continues to decline at the current rate, the creature would vanish from the Earth by the year 2050. […]

  5. […] A version of this video was published on Oakland North on March 23, 2011. See it here. […]

  6. rowlind on September 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    very2 interisting

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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

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