Yes, America, the California market for shark-fin soup is the largest outside Asia. Which means that much of the carnage John has documented in previous SeaMonster posts (see here, here, and here) is washing up right here in your backyard. Read it and weep.
But the sun also rises. The California legislature passed the shark-fin ban last month. And now Jerry Brown — once and current Governor, former mayor of Oakland, former Attorney General of California, three-time candidate for President, son of yet another governor of California, appointer of the first openly gay judge in the United States, and one-time consort of pop star Linda Ronstadt, has signed it — putting an end to all that. The juggernaut that’s been gaining momentum over recent months, most publicly with redwood-sized Yao Ming‘s courageous ad campaign, has now hit home here in the USA. According to the Washington Post:
“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.”
Um, racist? I’m not following the argument. We also don’t eat dogs in this country, or whales, though that’s considered acceptable in certain other cultures.
“Sharks need their fins, and we don’t,” said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society’s California director. “The momentum to protect sharks globally has taken a huge step forward.”
Like most environmental issues, this one is not as simple as it might first appear. Our esteemed ocean blogger colleague David Shiffman (aka WhySharksMatter) wrote a nice piece last month unpacking some of those nuances, which I highly recommend. My own take on this is that actions such as this one just taken by California, though not perfect, are important in sending a clear, simple (and, yes, simplistic) message to that great majority of citizens who — bombarded from all sides with headlines about the crumbling economy and pirates in Somalia and the death of America’s undisputed innovation pioneer and the latest intrigue at American Idol and so on — are hard pressed to summon the energy for sharks to register on their consciousness.
So kudos to California.
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