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California Legislature passes bill banning sale of shark fins, as some lawmakers claim racism
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) ' California's Legislature sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill seeking to ban the sale, trade or possession of shark fins on Tuesday, over the objections of two senators who called the measure racist because the fins are used in a soup considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures.
The bill has split the Asian delegation in the Legislature. It was introduced by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, and was supported by Sen. Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, who said it is needed to protect endangered shark species.
Others disagreed. Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, noted that the bill would ban only part of the shark while permitting the continued consumption of shark skin or steaks.
"This bill goes out of its way to be discriminatory," Lieu said. "They single out one cultural practice."
Critics of the practice, which already is restricted in U.S. waters, estimate that fishermen kill 73 million sharks each year for their fins. They said it is particularly cruel because the wounded sharks often are returned to the ocean to die after their fins are removed.
The fins can sell for $600 a pound, and the soup can cost $80 a bowl.
Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, who carried AB376 in the Senate, said California has the highest demand for the fins outside Asia. She cited estimates that 85 percent of dried shark fin imports to the United States come through California, giving the bill an impact beyond efforts to restrict the practice in the U.S. and abroad.
"It's our market here that drives the slaughter," Kehoe said. "We are an importer and a broker worldwide."
The proposed ban has been supported by celebrities including actress Bo Derek and retired NBA center Yao Ming. The state Senate approved the bill on a 25-9 vote.