Defenders in Action: Stopping Shark Finning
Defenders of Wildlife has worked for years to stop the brutal practice of shark finning, with major efforts in Mexico and California. San Diego and Los Angeles are two of the main entry points for importing shark fins in America due to their large Asian-American populations.
Shark fin soup is a status symbol in Asian culture and a sign of wealth (it can sell for up to $80 a serving in restaurants) and it is believed by some to have medicinal healing properties. Its defenders view its consumption as a cultural right.
California already had laws against finning in its coastal waters but there was a major loophole that was being exploited for years. Most of the fins that were imported into California were first processed in Asia and then exported around the world. This means many of the fins imported and sold in California could have come from any of the 70+ countries that sell fins to Asia yet lack any finning regulations.
How We’re Helping
In 2007, after five years of working with Mexico’s government, Defenders helped pass legislation that outlawed shark finning in Mexico’s waters.
In 2011, Defenders, along with a coalition of 12 other environmental organizations, began a campaign to pass a law banning the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fins in California. As a result of these efforts, on October 7, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB376 into law. As of January 1, 2012, fins will no longer be allowed to be imported into the state and people and business owners in possession of fins will have until July 1, 2013 to deplete their reserves.
Where We Are Today
The list of cities and states that are adopting anti-finning measures in recognition of the vast and immediate threat facing the world’s shark populations is growing. To date Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, Guam, California and Oregon, as well as the city of Toronto, Canada have passed legislation to ban the practice and New York City is also considering a similar measure.
Unfortunately, many countries still allow shark finning so Defenders is working on other efforts to gain international protections for these ecologically important species.