Shark fin soup will disappear soon from a menu near you after Wednesday's Senate vote to ban the fishing, sale, possession and distribution of the ocean predator's cartilage.
With the vote of 25-9 in favor of the California Shark Protection Act (AB 376), the controversial bill raised questions about the impact of cultural values on the environment and pitted two Chinese-Americans against each other—Mountain View (D-Cupertino) and state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).
Fong won this one. The bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
“It is time to stop serving a soup that is driving sharks to extinction," said Fong, who with Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) co-authored the bill. "The cultural issue is very minor compared to the major environmental devastation of eliminating sharks for our world’s oceans."
Fins sell for upward of $600 a pound, while shark meat garners $1 per pound. Often with the practice of shark finning, the fins are cut off and the bodies are dumped back into the water, leaving the sharks to starve to death, drown or be eaten by other fish.
Shark fin soup can be served at weddings and special events in the Asian community. Locally, it's on the menu at , where the soup as an appetizer costs $25.50 per person and as high as $308 for a table of 10. At , an individual serving costs $38, a whole rack of shark fin costs $180, and for a table of 10, the cheapest price for a wedding banquet is $438.
Outside of Asia, California consumes the largest amount of shark fin.
Opponents of the bill still argue that the legislation targets one particular cultural group and does not address some of the other reasons the population of sharks in the oceans has declined in recent years. Yee also emphasized that sharks can still be fished for other purposes.
However, Fong believes that his community can make the compromise, because it's also part of who they are.
"Chinese-Americans are environmentally conscious; we believe in harmony with nature," he said. "It is in our culture to support the protection of our environment.”