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Shark fin soup soon will be off the menu in California.
A law banning the sale, possession and distribution of shark fins passed in the state Senate on a 25-9 vote on Tuesday. A companion bill that makes exceptions for taxidermy and scientific research passed 28-8. The bill already passed the Assembly in May, and it is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. California follows Washington, Hawaii and Oregon in passing similar legislation.
While the move has been lauded by conservationists, state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who is running for San Francisco mayor and voted against the bill, said it would harm fisheries and restaurants. He also criticized it as “a subtle example of discrimination against Chinese Americans.”
Shark fin soup is considered a luxury and a sign of good fortune in Chinese culture, and is served on special occasions such as weddings and banquets. In California, the delicacy has been made available to middle-class consumers at $15 to $75 per serving.
State Sen. Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), one of the bill’s co-authors, said that the bill is in line with traditional Chinese values.
“It is time to stop serving a soup that is driving sharks to extinction,” Fong said in a statement. “Chinese Americans are environmentally conscious. We believe in harmony with nature. It is in our culture to support the protection of our environment.”
State laws usually take effect on Jan. 1 following the act’s signage into law. But this act won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2013 to give retailers and restaurateurs time to comply.
The bill would bolster federal law, which already prohibits killing sharks just for their fins.
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T.J. Johnston is a San Francisco-based journalist. He has been published in Newsdesk.org; Street Sheet; Street Spirit; Poor Magazine; Race, Poverty & the Environment; and Now Public, among other publications and Web sites.
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