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Gov. Jerry Brown signs shark fin ban, sparks protest

October 10, 2011 |  1:16 pm

Fin

In a bill-signing flurry Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown outlawed the sale of shark fins in California. Supporters of the ban hailed it as a coup, but chefs who prepare Chinese food say the new law is an assault on a centuries-old delicacy and culinary tradition. 

"Now it's just one more thing Chinese people cannot find in America," Thai Ong, manager of specialty store Wing Hop Fung in Monterey Park, said in an article today in the L.A. Times. The article said dried shark fin can sell for more than $2,000 a pound in California. Tsang estimated that restaurants lose on average of about $200 per table if they don't serve shark fin soup at a banquet.

The fin is prized for the soup. Because there is little demand for shark meat, fishermen resort to "finning," in which the fins are sliced off live sharks, after which they are thrown back into the water. Some sources say that as many as 73 million sharks are killed through finning every year and that about 85% of U.S. shark fin consumption occurs in California.

Despite lobbyists for fin importers and the restaurant industry pressuring Brown to veto the ban, he signed the bill into law; the ban goes into effect Jan. 1, 2012. Businesses and individuals can sell shark fins obtained before the ban went into effect until July 1, 2013. Other states that have banned the sale of shark fins are Hawaii, Washington and Oregon.

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-- Betty Hallock

Illustration by Wesley Bausmith/Los Angeles Times.

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