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Shark finning. (Photo: apaoha.org)

Activists push for ban of shark fin sales in California

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 01:00 (GMT + 9)

Almost 25,000 people in California have signed an online petition to ban the sale of shark fins.

The campaign aims to pressure Governor Jerry Brown to pass AB 376, which passed the Assembly in May and passed in the Senate this month. All that needs to happen now for shark fin sales to be banned is for Brown to sign the bill into law.

The petition to Brown was started on Change.org -- which touts itself as the world's fastest-growing platform for social change -- by the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance (APA Alliance), a group of Asian Americans who want to ban shark fins. The organisation is urging the governor to take action on the legislation as soon as possible.

"It is vital that the grassroots communicate the importance of passing AB 376 to Governor Jerry Brown," said Bill Wong, member of the APA Alliance and creator of the petition, Change.org reports.

He noted that, according to the Chinese press, opponents to the ban include former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, San Francisco District Attorney Gascon and former Judge Harry Low. They want Brown to veto AB 376 because they believe it is a threat to culture and jobs.

“We greatly respect Governor Brown's visionary commitment to the environment and his independence, but we are concerned that he may veto the bill if our side does not make it clear to him how important this bill is to saving sharks, the ocean, and long-term jobs that depend on sustainable fishing," Wong said.

More than 73 million sharks are slaughtered yearly for their fins, which are used to make the traditional Chinese dish shark fin soup, considered a delicacy and reserved for special events like weddings. The issue has thus divided California's Chinese American community.

"Finning" has caused some species to drop by as much as 90 per cent, which is why environmental groups want to eradicate it.

But Chinese American restaurateurs and traders have pushed to have the bill vetoed and are counting with the support of several Chinese American lawmakers, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has referred to the ban as "an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine." At the same time, other Chinese American legislators, chefs and celebrities believe finning has gone too far and needs to stop.

“At this rate they're going to be extinct in our lifetime,” said Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), a sponsor of the bill. “And without the top predator, our ocean's ecosystem goes into a huge imbalance and falls like a house of cards.”

Sarah Parsons, senior organizer at Change.org, said that, given the activity on the petition, “clearly a wide spectrum of society agrees" on the ban.

Brown has 30 days to decide whether to sign or veto AB 376, and if signed, the law would go into effect by mid-2013. The APA Alliance is still asking people to sign its petition and call the governor.

Related article:

Green group lauds govt's shark fin bill 

By Natalia Real


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