The ban on shark fin soup in California took a big step towards reality on Monday, when the state Assembly voted 62-8 to approve a bill banning sale and distribution of the controversial Chinese delicacy.
The bill will become law if approved by the state Senate. The ban would go into effect on January 1, 2013, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Shark fin soup is a traditional Chinese food most often consumed at weddings, banquets and other special occasions. But the fins are harvested in a practice called "finning," in which fishermen catch a shark, remove its fins, and then toss it back into the ocean, where the immobile shark essentially drowns.
Finning is responsible for a dramatic drop in the worldwide shark population, say supporters of the bill, who note that shark fin soup is virtually tasteless and can easily be replaced by sustainable vegetables or other "mock shark fin" replacements in weddings cultural events where the delicacy is favored.
The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, said the ocean's ecosystem would "collapse like a house of cards" without its top predator, the sharks.
Opponents of the bill include San Francisco's Chinese-American representatives in Sacramento: state Sen. Leland Yee and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. The ban on finning unfairly singles out Chinese traditions, and existing laws are enough to protect sharks, they say.