Long Live the Sharks: California Passes Ban on Shark Finning

Today, I am very proud to say that California took a historic step in the right direction. My Golden State voted to ban the possession and sale of shark fins.

This is exciting for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that our oceans' apex predators play a critical role in the health of the ecosystems that support and feed people across the globe.

But what I personally find so promising is the realization that we, as citizens, wield enormous power. When passionate and diverse stakeholders come together around a unified goal -- anything is possible. Sheer determination and grassroots outreach by organizations like NRDC, C.O.A.R.E. and Sea Stewards lifted the chorus of voices that wanted to put an end to the barbaric practice of shark finning.

Today we celebrate a victory for sharks and a victory for everyone who made phone calls, tweeted, shared a link, signed a letter or took a photo because sharks are definitely worth more alive than dead. (Special shout-out to folks like Leo DiCaprio and Ian Somerhalder who spread the word to their very large network of followers, and to Fred Buyle and William Winram for their stunning photos).

As my colleague Leila Monroe has often shared in her blog, a shark's value is squandered when sharks are killed for short-term gain from the sale of their fins. And because California is one of the largest markets for shark fins outside of Asia, by stopping the fin trade here we can help put an end to this type of destruction in international waters.
More than 1/3 of shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of the international shark fin trade, with some populations declined by 99%. Although 26-73 million sharks are killed every year, just for their fins, many states and nations around the world are taking bold action to stop the wasteful "finning" of sharks: Chile, one of the biggest fin exporters, recently banned shark finning in their waters, joining the Bahamas, Honduras, the Maldives and Palau. In the U.S., Hawaii passed a first-of-its-kind law banning the sale, possession, and distribution of shark fins in the state) last year, and similar measures have passed just this summer in Washington State and Oregon.

Thanks to the leadership of Assembly members Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) -- the authors of the bill to ban shark finning (AB 376) -- and to the groundswell of public support that came pouring in, AB 376 will move onto to the governor's desk for a signature and then into the California books as a law.

As Paul Fong said "I'm pleased that California can take part in the worldwide movement to protect these important creatures, and that we can continue to provide leadership in important environmental matters."

Long live the sharks!