San Francisco's Chinatown Neighborhood Association is suing California, arguing its ban on shark fin sales discriminates against cultural practices. The suit comes on the heels of a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts Environmental Group showing a precipitous drop-off in the world's shark population:
Many species have suffered population declines of 90 to 99 percent in recent decades, mostly to feed the seemingly endless demand for the tasteless concoction known as shark fin soup, which is served to mark important occasions such as weddings and business deals in China and some other Asian communities.
Even if upheld, the California ban will not likely put a dent in global sales. The world's biggest single source of demand, Hong Kong, imported some 10 million kg of shark fins last year. And the US ranks relatively low on a list of suppliers, some of which are somewhat surprising:
So where did all of the shark fins imported into Hong Kong come from? Spain, it turns out, was the number-one source. Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates rounded out the top five. The U.S. was the ninth-largest source of shark fins imported into Hong Kong.
Along the same lines, Southern Fried Science corrects misconceptions about shark finning. The post explains why many scientists and conservationists support managed fisheries over all-out legislative bans:
Shark finning does not mean removing the fins from a shark. This is really important and seems to be a source of some confusion- not every shark fin for sale in markets is the result of shark finning! Shark finning means removing the fins from a shark while still on the fishing vessel and dumping the rest of the shark overboard. This is a problem because its wasteful (less than 10% of the weight of a shark is used), because its easy to quickly overfish a population even from a small boat (fins don’t take up a lot of space on board), and because its almost impossible for managers to know how many of each species were harvested.
(Chart from Pew (pdf))