It is difficult to get the news these days and not be overwhelmed with information documenting the continual decline of the health of our oceans. Over fishing, pollution, oil spills, climate change all contribute to the problem, and it sometimes seems so vast a problem that it may be unsolvable. Yet, there is hope; and each of you reading this can now do something that will make a big difference for one group of animals–sharks.
To help protect sharks, California Assemblymen Paul Fong and Jared Huffman have introduced a new bill. This Bill, AB 376 is simply worded. Except for a few reasonable exemptions, it makes it illegal to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin; and should reduce the demand for shark fins by targeting the market for fins in California.
Shark fining is principally responsible for the decline in sharks worldwide. Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year, which has reduced overall shark populations by an estimated 90%. Sharks cannot reproduce fast enough too keep up with this rate of slaughter and most populations are in serious, if not irreversible, decline. Because shark fin soup yields high profits (a bowl of shark fin soup may cost $100) the shark fin industry keeps pressure on legislators to refrain from passing and enforcing anti-fining laws. Sharks are an apex predator and perform an important function in maintaining the population balance of sea life and thus the health of the world’s oceans. It is not possible to systematically eliminate any one group of animals from the food chain and maintain healthy oceans.
Mr. Fong is an Asian Pacific American and grew up in Hong Kong consuming shark fin soup. After he learned of the effect it is having on shark populations, he stopped eating it. Chinese American chefs, scientists, fishermen and conservationists have joined Mr. Fong to stop the sale of shark fins in the state. Although we have laws against killing sharks solely for their fins, shark fins are still imported into California from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Hong Kong and other countries.
California State Senator Leland Yee, who is running for mayor of San Francisco, leads the opposition to AB 376. Mr. Yee called AB 376 an “attack on Asian culture.” Yet, a huge number of supporters of AB 376 are Chinese, including the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance. Since the announcement, an overwhelming response has come from our local Asian community, primarily in support of the AB 376.
This is not a racial or cultural issue but one of sustainability. AB 376 is an ecological imperative. Traditions evolve just as our methods for harvesting the sea must evolve. With 80% of the world’s fisheries in collapse, and sharks threatened with extinction at the current rate of fishing, we need to take institute effective protective measures now. Our common culture is the Ocean, a culture of all races, and the health of the oceans and fisheries are our common resource.
Now is the time to act to influence the health of our oceans for decades to come. First, please contact your State Assembly Member and Senator and let them know you support AB 376. If you don’t know your State Representatives you can find them at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html. Next, please let Senator Yee know how you feel about this bill. If you live in his district, you may contact him through his website (may be found by using the link above); otherwise you may FAX him at: (916) 327-2186.