Two California Assembly members, Paul Fong and Jared Huffman, have introduced a bill to eliminate the sale of shark fins in the state. With 73 million sharks culled annually to make shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asian cuisine that can fetch up to $85 a bowl, recent studies have shown almost a third of the species are now threatened with extinction due to overfishing, which would be catastrophic for marine ecosystems.
San Francisco-based Wild Aid, has been investigating the trade for over two decades, and has video evidence showing the sharks alive when the fins are removed – they also have footage of a live tawny shark dumped on an Indonesian reef after being mutilated.
“This footage is definitive proof that sharks are being finned alive for soup,” said Peter Knights, the director of Wild Aid. “There is currently no law on the books in the U.S. to stop finned sharks from ending up in a bowl of soup here."
Actor and UN Environmental Ambassador Edward Norton works alongside Wild Aid and says, “As a life long diver, I have seen the depletion of sharks caused by the shark fin trade first-hand all over the world from Indonesia to the Galapagos Islands. The Fong/Huffman bill is a vital step towards reducing demand and protecting these important animals and has my full support.”
Within the Asian community prominent actors, business leaders and athletes such as NBA star Yao Ming have pledged to stop eating shark fin soup and have recorded public service announcements showing their opposition. The campaign has been featured on Chinese TV networks and has lead Alibaba (the Chinese equivalent of Ebay) to prohibit the sale of shark fins.
Sharks have a late maturity and slow reproduction rate which makes them especially vulnerable to mass kills, and with most of the reproductively active adults being eliminated it will take years for them to recover.
“Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, but at the current rate of overfishing they could be wiped out in a single human generation,” said Knights. “Fisheries regulation on the ground has utterly failed to reduce overfishing, market approaches are the way to go.”