California State Assemblymen Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D- San Rafael) have introduced a bill (A.B. 376) that would prohibit the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins. Apparently in demand for shark fin soup, “the ingredient is very high in mercury and the FDA warns that it could be dangerous to consumers’ health,” according to a joint press release issued by the lawmakers.

Calling shark finning “a senseless act” in which fins and tails are cut from living sharks with the remainder of the fish thrown back in the ocean, Huffman noted that the practice “can seriously destabilized the food chain” because of sharks’ predatory status “in ocean ecosystems around the world.” Although shark finning is illegal under federal and California statutes, Fong called those laws “insufficient when we have species of sharks depleted up to 90 percent. The demand for shark fin is growing and the worldwide shark population is depleting to extinction rates. I say it is time to remove shark fin from the menu.”

California State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has opposed the bill, calling it “the wrong answer to a legitimate problem.” Although concerned about overfishing of sharks, Yee said that the “proposed state law to ban all shark fins from consumption—regardless of species or how they were fished or harvested—is the wrong approach and an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine. Some sharks are well-populated and many can and should be sustainably fished.” See Fong/Huffman and Yee Press Releases, February 14, 2011.