California’s shark fin ban was a big step toward ending the shark fin trade, as the state is the largest market for fins outside of Asia. The ban goes into effect in January 2013.
In the meantime, New York may be the next state to ban the sale of shark fins. The Empire State would join California along with Oregon, Hawaii and Washington which have already established bans. According to the NY Times, a bill currently in Albany would “would ban the sale, trading, possession and distribution of shark fins, possibly as of 2013.”
The bill is sponsored in the state Assembly by Alan Maisel, Linda B. Rosenthal and Grace Meng. Meng says that she grew up eating shark fin soup, and enjoyed the popular Asian dish. She also represents a district in Flushing where many Asian-Americans live. However, she says the bill is needed. “This is going to be a huge adjustment for the community, but it’s important to be responsible citizens,” said Meng.
Some Chinatown restaurants are disappointed with the news of the possible new law, but some say it won’t effect their business much. “It’s only the elderly who want it: when their grandkids get married, they want the most expensive stuff, like an emperor…Guests offer me a bowl all the time, but I like won-ton soup,” said Vincent Yu, a waiter at Grand Harmony Palace where shark fin soup sells for $30-$100 a bowl. Patrick Kwan of the Humane Society of the United States also told the NY Times that many of the city’s banquet halls serve the dish, up to 1,000 fins every month.
Shark finning has been under fire from many animal groups and conservationists for its cruel method (the sharks are pulled on board to have their fins cut off and then thrown into the water still alive) and its rapid depletion of shark populations. Sharks are a top predator and therefore vital to ocean ecosystems. Several other states currently have bills that may ban the sale of shark fins including Florida, Maryland and Virginia. New York is the largest importer of shark fins on the east coast, and would be another huge step.