Is a California Shark Fin Ban Racist?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 15, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Is an environmental conservation law actually a clever racist attack?

Shark fin soup has been a Chinese delicacy for nearly 2,000 years, making its way onto menus even today. It can cost as much as $50 per person, as the collapse of an important shark population has put the price of shark fins near $500 a pound.

In response to the collapsed shark ecosystem, the federal government banned shark finning in U.S. waters this past December. The newly proposed California shark fin ban goes one step further: it also bans the possession, sale and distribution of shark fins, reports SF Weekly.

There are two sides to this story: the environmentalists' and that which represents Asians who see shark fin soup as an important part of their culture.

Environmentalists point to the fact that during the collection of shark fins, the rest of the shark's body is left at sea, resulting in the death of 26 to 73 million sharks every year. There are also numerous species that are on the verge of population collapse, notes SF Weekly. While the federal ban on shark finning addresses part of the issue, the California shark fin ban would also curb the international market, making it more difficult for finners to export into the U.S. It's a more global solution.

California State Senator Leland Yee, however, sees the ban as an attack on shark fin soup, and thus an "attack on Asian Culture," relays SF Weekly. He believes that the ban discriminates against Chinese cuisine. Yee further makes a very important point about the California shark fin ban: it also bans the sale of fins from sharks properly fished for their meat, some of which is done sustainably.

Is the California shark fin ban an attack on Chinese shark fin soup? Do Sen. Leland Yee and Chinese-restaurant owners not care about the ailing shark population? No, and no.

California seems to be trying to globalize its concern for endangered sharks by cutting off a large portion of the shark fin market. In doing so, it has failed to consider what Sen. Yee has--there are sustainable and acceptable ways to obtain the ingredients for shark fin soup. And Senator Yee adamantly states that he is concerned about the sharks, telling the Los Angeles Times that he supports the federal finning ban.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard