Groups Praise Federal Court’s Ruling to Uphold California Law Banning Shark Fins

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation and the Asian Pacific Ocean Harmony Alliance join The Humane Society of the United States in applauding a San Francisco federal court’s ruling to uphold legislation prohibiting the sale, trade and possession of shark fins in California. This landmark legislation will eliminate the local market for shark fins in California as of July 1 and end the state’s role in facilitating the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning. 

“This is an important step toward assuring a future with healthy oceans and healthy shark populations,” said Aimee David, director of ocean conservation policy for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “The court’s strong ruling reinforces California’s leadership in ocean conservation worldwide.”

“Finning” is an abhorrent practice that involves slicing off the fins of a shark and discarding the animal at sea to drown or bleed to death. Unsustainable fishing methods like this have led to declines by as much as 90 percent in some shark populations during recent decades.

“Sharks need their fins, and we don’t,” said Jennifer Fearing, The HSUS’ California senior state director. “The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International applaud the court for its strong endorsement of California’s decisive action on this important animal welfare and conservation measure. The momentum to protect sharks globally has taken a huge leap forward.”  

AB 376, authored by Assemblymembers Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 7, 2011, was challenged last year by local merchants who claim the ban exceeds the state’s legislative authority under the U.S. Constitution. This legislation is directed at shark conservation only, and applies equally to everyone regardless of national origin.

“The court’s ruling affirms that AB 376 is a fair and non-discriminatory law that is important to saving the environment and preserving ocean sea life for generations to come,” said Assemblymember Fong. “I urge those who opposed AB 376 to join the majority Chinese Americans that are in strong support of protecting sharks and the ocean habitat.”

In its ruling, the court found the new law was well-within the state’s authority to enact, and based on “legislative findings that sharks occupy the top of the marine food chain and their decline constitutes a serious threat to the ocean ecosystem and biodiversity; that the practice of shark finning causes the death of tens of millions of sharks every year; and that by eliminating an important end market (sales in California), and thereby impacting the demand for shark fins, California can help ensure that sharks do not become extinct.”

All three organizations are represented by the law firm Schiff Hardin LLP and lawyers with the HSUS’ animal protection litigation group.



  • The fins from up to 73 million sharks are used to make shark fin soup each year.
  • Conservation enforcement and finning bans in the U.S. alone are not enough to conserve sharks. A ban on shark fin products, such as AB 376 in California, is an effective way to eliminate the demand for shark fins in local markets, and to help eradicate shark finning around the world.  
  • Shark fin is often the most expensive item on restaurant menus and typically served simply as a symbol of status. It has no nutritional value and is the main driver of the multi-billion dollar international shark fin trade. The dish is highly controversial because of the manner in which shark fins are harvested and the precarious status of many shark populations.  
  • In January 2011, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act to strengthen the federal law against shark finning in U.S. waters and require that sharks be landed with their fins still attached.  Nevertheless, fins that have been removed from live sharks outside U.S. territorial waters continue to be imported to satisfy the demand for shark fin products in California and other U.S. states.
  • Similar laws prohibiting the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins have been passed in Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon and Washington.
  • The last shark fin can be legally sold in California on June 30, 2012.

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