Long considered a mouth-watering delicacy with revered Chinese folkloric powers, the sale and consumption of shark fins may soon be banned throughout the state of California.
A recently introduced bill in the California Legislature would make the sale and the possession of shark fins illegal in an effort to curb the egregious practice of shark finning.
The common practice of procuring shark fins has been called barbaric. Sharks are caught in open waters, brought to the decks of boats where their fins are severed and removed in a bloody and painful procedure. Their maimed bodies are then thrown over, back into the open sea where they drift down to the sea floor and eventually die from the blood loss.
Particularly valued by the Chinese in what was once considered a ceremonial dish, there's been a growing worldwide demand for shark fins, especially for the prized delicacy of shark fin soup. Scientists estimate that up to 73 million sharks are being killed every year by the industry demand.
A federal law already prohibits bringing sharks to shore minus their fins, but a loophole allows the importing of shark fins, which can be found in Chinatowns and Chinese markets in most major cities.
Some experts suggest shark populations, such as the great white, are already in jeopardy. Their reproduction process is slow to begin with—upwards of 15 years—and some breeds don't take to captivity, eliminating the possibility of farming them or sustainably harvesting fins.
The bill has Chinese communities at a tough crossroads. Eating shark fin has been a Chinese custom for thousands of years, which many are reluctant to give up, however they also recognize the inherent problems with over-fishing and the already troubled state of the world's oceans and fish populations.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jillettinger