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California Senate Passes Landmark Shark Conservation Bill

The California Senate passed Assembly Bill 376 today by a vote of 25 to 9. The bill, which previously passed the state Assembly by a vote of 60 to 8, effectively prohibits the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins within the state. Given his strong environmental record, Governor Brown is expected to sign this into law as soon as next week. California is said to be the largest source of demand for shark fins outside of Asia, so this bill represents a major step toward reducing pressure on shark populations. Once signed into law, California will follow Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon, where similar legislation has previously passed.  Assembly Members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman introduced the bill earlier this year, which has been championed by a coalition including WildAid, Oceana, the Humane Society of the United States, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and backed by community leaders and Hollywood heavyweights. Though polling suggested that 70% of Chinese-American voters in California support the bill, San Francisco mayoral candidate Senator Leland Yee led the opposition, working with high-priced lobbying firms to try to water down the bill with amendments and/or exclusions. Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid, testified several times before the state legislature, as did actress Bo Derek, an advocate and WildAid board member. “Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, and could be wiped out in a single human generation due to an increasing demand for their fins,” said Knights. ”Fisheries regulation on the ground has utterly failed to reduce overfishing -- market approaches like this are crucial.”  Fins from up to 73 million sharks per year are used to make shark fin soup, a vastly popular Asian delicacy. Captured at sea and hauled on deck, the sharks are often still alive while their fins are sliced off. Because shark meat is not considered as valuable as shark fin, the maimed animals are tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death. The process is called shark finning, a wasteful and cruel practice still legal in much of the world.