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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Feds Would Probably Eat Shark Fin Soup

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 12:39 PM

California sharks get caught in the legal system
  • California sharks get caught in the legal system

Today could be a big catch for shark fin soup eaters who've been trying to reverse California's newly enacted law that put the kibosh on the Chinese delicacy. As the Ex reminded us this morning, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will take up the issue later today and decide whether to grant an injunction on the current shark fin ban.

The Chinatown Neighborhood Association and Asian Americans for Political Advancement sued the state last year, hoping to halt the statewide ban on shark fins. U.S. District Court denied the groups' request for a preliminary injunction, prompting today's appeal.

And while environmentalists and shark lovers alike are not on their side, it appears the feds are.

The Justice Department filed an amicus brief late last month claiming that California's new law "obstructs the use of fishery resources lawfully obtained in federal waters." Federal acts, including the Shark Finning Prohibition Act in 2000 and Shark Conservation Act in 2010, which already protect the endangered species without sinking the commercial fishing industry.

Federal laws now allow fishermen (and women) to catch and sell sharks as long as they use the entire carcass. In other words, fishermen can't capture a shark, cut its fins off, and toss the carcass back into the waters, a common practice among shark finners.

This is how Joseph Breall, attorney for the Chinese community groups, explains it:

California says you can't place the fins in commerce, which violates federal law, which says you can put the entire fish including its fins in commerce. The purpose of the law allegedly is to promote shark conservation, but it doesn't really reach its purpose because federal law promotes shark conservation because there is no finning in the U.S.

On July 1, the state's ban went into effect, making it illegal to sell or be in possession of shark fins -- the main ingredient for the Chinese gelatinous soup. If you're busted with the fins, then you could be slapped with a $1,000 fine.

Read the Feds' full brief:

United States Amicus Brief

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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