California Bans Shark Fin Trade

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning the trade of shark fins in California, the AP reported last week. The bill raised controversy in California’s Asian community, which is the largest consumer of shark fins outside of Asia, and which prizes the fins as an ingredient in a soup considered a delicacy. The shark fins are harvested by slicing the fins off of sharks, often dumping the sharks back in the ocean to die, as they cannot survive without a fin. Click on the video above for a graphic glimpse into the practice of finning.

Shark fins from Hong Kong, the biggest fin market in the world, have been traced back to their home waters using DNA, reported Christine Dell’Amore in a 2009 National Geographic Daily News article. Dell’Amore notes that the practice of finning claims up to 73 million sharks annually. The study took samples from hammerheads and traced them using DNA from global research efforts, in a first-of-its-kind study. They found that 21% of the samples came from sharks in endangered western Atlantic populations.

In Global Fisheries Crisis (April 2007), Fen Montaigne examines the factors that have brought world fish stocks to dangerous lows. He reports on the efficient killing power of new fishing technology, and says too many boats are chasing too few fish. Find out what solutions the experts suggest, and what regions have had some success helping fish populations rebound. Photos by Brian Skerry.

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