SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — California’s governor announced Friday that he signed a bill banning the sale, trade and possession of shark fins to protect the world’s dwindling shark population.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB376 over objections that the fins are used in a soup considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures.

California joined Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Guam in the ban that environmental and animal rights activists hailed for closing off Pacific ports in the U.S. to the shark fin trade.

“The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans,” Brown wrote in a statement.

The bill had split the Asian delegation in the California Legislature.

Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, who authored the bill, said it was needed to protect endangered shark species, but others called the measure racist because the fins are used in a soup. The fins can sell for $600 a pound, and the soup can cost $80 a bowl.

The California market for shark-fin soup is the largest outside Asia. During a legislative debate, Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, noted the bill would ban only part of the shark while permitting the continued consumption of shark skin or steaks.

“I respect the governor’s decision and now hope the proponents of AB376 will focus on protecting sharks, such as the spiny dogfish shark, from being endangered due to consumption of its meat, such as in steaks and fish and chips,” Lieu said in a statement.

Critics of shark finning, which already is restricted in U.S.  waters, estimate that fishermen kill 73 million sharks each year for their fins. They said it is particularly cruel because the wounded sharks often are returned to the ocean to die after their fins are removed.

“Californians can be proud of their role in giving these remarkable top predators a chance to recover their populations and helping to restore balance to our oceans,” said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who co-authored the bill.

Brown said researchers have estimated that some shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent.

“In the interest of future generations, I have signed this bill,” he wrote.

The ban was supported by celebrities, including actress Bo Derek and retired NBA center Yao Ming of China. It also was backed by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, and other environmental advocates.

Brown signed another bill by Fong, AB853, that allows existing stocks of on-hand shark fins to be sold until July 1, 2013. It also makes it clear that sport fishermen who catch a shark can still eat the fin or have the shark stuffed and mounted as a trophy.

It also clarifies that the ban would not affect stuffing and mounting of sharks, nor the donation of fins to research or medical institutions.

“Sharks need their fins, and we don’t,” said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society’s California director. “The momentum to protect sharks globally has taken a huge step forward.”

The ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (7)
  1. Lane says:

    Californians are Very Disappointed in the Governor for taking sides and getting involved with what we can eat. How can these sharks recover their population if shark steaks and stuffing sharks as trophies are allowed. It does not make sense!!! It seems to discriminate against the Chinese community by allowing others to hunt and eat the shark steaks. If you want to save sharks, then all shark killings should not be allowed!!!….. Besides who cares what the celebrities think; they are only actors…. I only watch them act out other peoples written material. I do not care what they think. Listen to your logic…..

    1. Roy says:

      We have to start somewhere in protecting our oceans. This is only the beginning. It has nothing to due with race or discrimination!
      Thank you Governor Brown!

  2. Sarah says:

    Please don’t speak for Californians

  3. Asian American says:

    The shark fin costs up to two hundred times the price of the shark meat. It drives the fin trade, which drives the killing of sharks. Simple logic!! 70% of Chinese Americans support the ban. Discrimination?? You’ve got to be kidding..

  4. Dawg says:

    Does a fisherman worry about the pain he is inflicting upon a fish when the fish is on a hook? Of course not. I mean it ain’t Flipper for crying out loud, its a stupid shark, a fish! The Chinese don’t ask for much, so let them have their fins.

  5. Roy says:

    dawg let me cut your feet off and throw you back in!

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