On Monday, the California State Assembly voted to pass AB-376, a proposed ban on the sale and import of shark's fin. The ban, which has been publicly condemned by state senator Leland Yee and SF mayor Ed Lee, is intended to prevent the practice of shark finning, which is decimating shark populations around the globe. (I wrote about the bill in March.) AB-376 was introduced by Assemblymembers Paul Fong (D.-Mountainview) and Jared Huffman (D.-San Rafael). Yesterday, I spoke to Assemblymember Fong about the bill.
SFoodie: Assemblymember Fong, congratulations on getting the bill passed. Given the fact that there are already federal laws banning the practice of shark finning, what led you to introduce a state bill banning all shark fin sales?
Fong: The federal law has been toothless. It hasn't been effective in curtailing the market for shark fin. So we had to cut off the demand.
You were able to pass AB-376 with a vote of 60 to 8. How much work did it take to secure the backing of other assemblymembers?
It wasn't that difficult, actually. The [assemblymembers] have received tens of thousands of support letters from voters. That was key -- the overwhelming amount of people in California support the shark fin ban.
Now that AB-376 is passing to the Senate, have you been working
to build support there? Have you found a senator willing to usher the
bill through committee?
I've talked to a few senators, and my staff has been talking to their
staff members. We have several possibilities for people who will usher
the bill through the Senate.
Were you taking a political risk with your constituents by introducing a shark-fin ban?
No, not actually. Seventy-six percent of all California voters, and 70
percent of all Chinese American voters in the state, support a ban on shark's fin. So
it wasn't a risk. In my area, I only received eight opposition letters,
and received thousands of letters of support. Those opposing the ban
were mostly people who have been involved with the shark's fin trade,
either suppliers or restaurants.
What's the response you've gotten from the international community?
The international press is more supportive than the national press.
I have a lot of support in Hong Kong -- and I've received many letters of
support from people in Hong Kong. In Mainland China, a legislator, a
member of parliament, has introduced a parliamentary letter proposing a
shark-fin ban. This is not a Chinese thing versus environmental thing. It's just
the right thing to do.