Federal Court Upholds New California Law Banning Shark Fins
SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 2, 2013) – A federal court in San Francisco issued a ruling
upholding landmark legislation prohibiting the sale of shark fins in California.
AB 376, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 7, 2011, will eliminate the
local market for shark fins in California and its role in facilitating the cruel
and wasteful practice of shark finning.
“Finning” is an abhorrent practice that involves slicing off the fins of a shark
and discarding the animal at sea to drown or bleed to death. Unsustainable
fishing methods like this have led to declines by as much as 90 percent in some
shark populations during recent decades.
“Sharks need their fins, and we don’t,” said Jennifer Fearing, The HSUS’
California senior state director. “The Humane Society of the United States and
Humane Society International applaud the court for its strong endorsement of
California’s decisive action on this important animal welfare and conservation
measure. The momentum to protect sharks globally has taken a huge leap forward.”
California’s shark fin law was challenged last year by local merchants who claim
the ban exceeds the State’s legislative authority under the U.S. Constitution.
The Humane Society of the United States, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation,
and the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance intervened in the case to
assist the California Attorney General in defending the measure.
In its ruling, the court found the new law was well-within the State’s authority
to enact, and based on “legislative findings that sharks occupy the top of the
marine food chain and their decline constitutes a serious threat to the ocean
ecosystem and biodiversity; that the practice of shark finning causes the death
of tens of millions of sharks every year; and that by eliminating an important
end market (sales in California), and thereby impacting the demand for shark
fins, California can help ensure that sharks do not become extinct.”
The bill was introduced in 2011 by Assemblymembers Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, and
Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, with the support of The Humane Society of the
United States and Humane Society International. Similar laws have been passed in
Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon and Washington.
HSUS and the other organizations are represented by the law firm Schiff Hardin
LLP and lawyers with the HSUS’ animal protection litigation group.
* The fins from up to 73 million sharks are used to make shark fin soup each
* Conservation enforcement and finning bans in the U.S. alone are not enough
to conserve sharks. A ban on shark fin products, such as AB 376 in California,
is an effective way to eliminate the demand for shark fins in local markets, and
to help eradicate shark finning around the world.
* Shark fin is often the most expensive item on restaurant menus and
typically served simply as a symbol of status. It has no nutritional value and
is the main driver of the multi-billion dollar international shark fin trade.
The dish is highly controversial because of the manner in which shark fins are
harvested and the precarious status of many shark populations.
* In January 2011, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act to
strengthen the federal law against shark finning in U.S. waters and require that
sharks be landed with their fins still attached. Nevertheless, fins that have
been removed from live sharks outside U.S. territorial waters continue to be
imported to satisfy the demand for shark fin products in California and other