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California passes new law banning sale of shark fins

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 7:36 a.m. HST, Oct 8, 2011

California's governor announced Friday that he had 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 United States to the shark fin trade.

The bill 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.

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.

Brown signed another bill sponsored by Fong, AB853, that allows existing stocks of 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.

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