BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    





           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |                                                                 |
          |         SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER         |
          |                   Senator Fran Pavley, Chair                    |
          |                    2011-2012 Regular Session                    |
          |                                                                 |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 

          BILL NO: AB 376                    HEARING DATE: June 14, 2011  
          AUTHOR: Fong                       URGENCY: No  
          VERSION: May 19, 2011              CONSULTANT: Marie Liu  
          DUAL REFERRAL: No                  FISCAL: Yes  
          SUBJECT: Shark fins.  
          
          BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW
          Section 7704 of the Fish and Game Code prohibits the sale, 
          purchase, commercial delivery, or possession on a commercial 
          vessel of any shark fin that has been removed from the carcass. 
          Fins of the thresher shark may be removed and possessed on a 
          commercial fishing vessel so long as the fins are unaltered and 
          the corresponding carcass is in possession.  

          Several other sections of the Fish and Game Code put 
          restrictions on the commercial taking of shark including a 
          prohibition of the taking of any white shark (8599) and a 
          prohibition on taking of shark and swordfish with a drift gill 
          net without an appropriate permit (8561). Furthermore, Fish and 
          Game regulations establish recreational take restrictions for a 
          number of specific shark species including Leopard, soupfin, 
          mako, thresher, and blue shark.

          Federal law regulates the shark fishery under the 
          Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This 
          act has been amended, including by the Shark Conservation Act of 
          2010, to prohibit the landing of sharks without their fins 
          attached. Federal law also prohibits shark finning. Shark 
          finning, as described by the National Marine Fisheries Service 
          of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA 
          Fisheries) in its 2009 annual Shark Finning Report to Congress, 
          is the "practice of taking a shark, removing a fin or fins 
          (whether or not including the tail), and returning the remainder 
          of the shark to the sea. Because the meat of the shark is 
          usually of low value, the finless sharks are thrown back into 
          the sea and subsequently die." Since sharks need to continuously 
          swim to breath, the finned shark either suffocates to death or 
                                                                      1







          is preyed upon. 

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill would prohibit the possession, sale, offer for sale, 
          trade, or distribution of a shark fin. Specifically, this bill 
          would:
                 Define "shark fin" as the detached tail or fin of an 
               elasmobranch (shark) that may be raw, dried, or otherwise 
               processed.
                 Exempts the possession of shark fins for scientific or 
               educational purposes by a person with a valid permit issued 
               by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG).
                 Exempts the possession of shark fins by a person who 
               holds commercial or recreational permit or license to take 
               or land sharks.
                 Until January 1, 2013, allow a restaurant to possess, 
               sell, trade, or distribute shark fin that is prepared for 
               consumption and was possessed by that restaurant as of 
               January 1, 2012.
                 Includes findings and declarations regarding the 
               ecological importance of sharks, the worldwide decline in 
               shark populations, sharks' susceptibility to decline, the 
               loss of tens of millions of sharks to shark finning, the 
               role of the shark fin market driving shark population 
               declines, and the high mercury content of shark fin which 
               is dangerous to consumers' health.

          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT
          According to the author, "Sharks are overfished and exploited 
          for their fins at alarming rates that are unnecessary for human 
          consumption and unsustainable for the overall health of our 
          seas.  Sharks are top predators that are critical to the ocean 
          ecosystem, without them, the health of the world's oceans marine 
          life will decline. Scientists have found that shark populations 
          have decreased dramatically in recent years, with some species 
          at risk of extinction."

          A coalition of primarily environmental organizations including 
          the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Defenders of Wildlife, and the United 
          Angles of Southern California, state in support of the bill, 
          "Sharks are in serious trouble as a result of the international 
          shark fin trade, with some populations declined by 99%. The 
          demand for high-value shark fin (as opposed to other low-value 
          shark products) continues to drive the decimation of sharks. 
          Sharks are critical apex predators that keep our ecosystems 
          working. Banning the shark fin trade is the only way to save 
          sharks- fin trade bans just like AB 376 have been enacted or are 
                                                                      2







          poised to be enacted in other US states and in countries around 
          the world. Our regulations cannot deter actors in international 
          waters, but ending the fin trade here can."

          ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION
          The Asian Food Trade Association opposes the bill because they 
          believe that if the shark fin is to be banned, then shark meat 
          and all shark related commercial products should also be banned. 
          Otherwise, the bill unfairly targets the Chinese and Asian 
          eating habits.

          Much of the opposition to this bill is from individuals, 
          restaurant and business owners, and family associations. While 
          these individuals have not collaborated officially as a single 
          group, several individuals collectively met with legislative 
          offices, including this committee's staff.  The group argues 
          that: 
                 Sharks as a whole are not endangered as evidenced by the 
               lack of shark species classified as threatened or 
               endangered in the US and the listing of only 3 shark 
               species by the Convention on International Trade in 
               Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
                 Finning is no longer a widespread practice and that 
               sharks are caught by all nations and races for their meat.
                 The shark fin is a valuable by-product of fishing for 
               shark meat.
                 The passage of this bill will result in thousands of 
               jobs lost and the loss of tax revenue from the sale of 
               shark fin.
                 Federal and international finning laws are effective.
                 Banning shark fin is discriminating against a single 
               culture because this would be the only state ban of a food 
               product, the bill only bans the fin and not other shark 
               products, and the bill aims to protect sharks when there 
               are more threatened fish species including bluefin tuna and 
               wild salmon.

          COMMENTS 
          Sharks are important to marine ecosystems.  Sharks are generally 
          top predators, thus their populations influence their prey's 
          distribution which causes a "domino effect" through the whole 
          food web. For example, sharks often suppress the number of 
          smaller predators that consume smaller fish and shellfish, 
          including commercially important species. Thus, in the northwest 
          Atlantic, large shark declines have corresponded with a decrease 
          in commerciallyvaluable bay scallops. Because sharks have very 
          large migratory ranges, the significant loss of sharks is 
                                                                      3







          predicted to result in complex changes to the ocean ecosystem. 
           
          Growing concern over shark populations.  NOAA Fisheries, in its 
          2009 annual Shark Finning Report to Congress, states, "Many 
          shark species are characterized by relatively late maturity, 
          slow growth, and low reproductive rates, which can make them 
          particularly vulnerable to overexploitation. Concern has grown 
          about the status of shark stocks and the sustainability of their 
          exploitation in world fisheries, as demand for some shark 
          species and shark products (i.e., fins) has increased." Numerous 
          scientific studies have noted significant population declines 
          for specific shark populations and geographic areas. For 
          example, two highly cited studies found that shark species in 
          the northwest Atlantic are estimated to have declined 40-89% 
          since the late 1980s, and oceanic whitetip and silky sharks in 
          the Gulf of Mexico have declined by over 99% and 90% 
          respectively.
          Baum, J.K., R.A. Myers, D.G. Kehler, B.Worm, S.J. Harley, and 
          P.A. Doherty. (2003). Collapse and conservation of shark 
          populations in the Northwest Atlantic. Science. 17 January 2003, 
          299: 389-392. 

          Baum, J.K. and R.A. Myers. (2004). Shifting baselines and the 
          decline of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico. Ecology 
          Letters. 7: 135-145.

          More generally, the International Union for Conservation of 
          Nature (IUCN) has finished a 10-year effort to evaluate all 
          chondrichthyan fishes (sharks and their relatives) that have 
          been described in scientific literature before the end of 2007. 
          The IUCN found that of the 881 species of chondrichthyans 
          globally, nearly a third are at higher levels of concern 
          ("critically endangered," "endangered," and "vulnerable"). Open 
          ocean sharks are particularly vulnerable with 58% of the species 
          being "threatened" with extinction.  There is however also 
          considerable uncertainty because there is insufficient 
          population data for many chondrichthyan species. 

          The committee may wish to consider whether there is substantial 
          scientific information suggesting that many shark species are 
          threatened and facing significant population declines.
           
          Fishing, particularly fishing driven by the demand for shark 
          fins, plays a predominate role in causing population declines.  
          NOAA Fisheries has concluded that since the mid-1980s, a number 
          of shark populations in the United States have declined, 
          primarily due to overfishing. The IUCN also has concluded that 
                                                                      4







          sharks are primarily threatened by fishing. Of the fishing 
          threat, more than half of the threat is a result of by-catch and 
          about a third of the threat is a result of directed commercial 
          fishing of sharks. 

          Since shark fins account for 40% of the value in the reported 
          shark trade but comprise only 7% of the volume, the IUCN states 
          that, "it has become increasingly clear that the international 
          demand for shark fins is the driving force behind most shark 
          fisheries today." The IUCN further states, "Historically most 
          sharks- especially those taken in high-seas fisheries- were 
          discarded because of their low value and difficulties associated 
          with storing their meat on board. The situation began to change 
          in the 1980s when the demand for shark fin soup in Asian 
          cultures began to grow. Shark fins are one of the world's most 
          expensive fishery products, and of much higher value than shark 
          meat."

           Can sufficient global shark protections be achieved through US 
          and state fishing laws?  A 2006 study that examined shark biomass 
          in the shark fin trade concluded that there is significant 
          underreporting of shark fin harvest, as the shark fin biomass in 
          the fin trade was three to four times higher than the reported 
          shark catch figures. This high level of underreporting and the 
          fact that there is a large variance in other countries' shark 
          fishing laws and enforcement, indicates that there are 
          substantial gaps globally for shark protection. The committee 
          may wish to consider
          whether sufficient protection of shark populations can be 
          achieved without changes in the international shark market, 
          regardless of the severity of US and state fishing laws. 

          Trade bans, on the other hand, can have impacts on the 
          international shark trade that cannot be achieved with domestic 
          fishing regulations. The Legislature has in the past has 
          attempted to affect international trade of other animals, 
          including a ban on the sale and possession of parts from zebras, 
          cheetahs, tigers, elephants, and leopards (Penal Code 650o).
           
          Is it appropriate or fair to ban one part of the shark rather 
          than the entire shark?  According to the author, the intent of 
          this measure is to address the overfishing of sharks. Because 
          the fin market is such a significant driver in the shark trade, 
          a ban on shark fin can sufficiently reduce the shark market. The 
          author states, "The minimal or nonexistent market for other 
          low-value shark parts and shark meat (which reports state is 
          exported from the United States for only $1 per pound), does not 
                                                                      5







          put shark populations at risk of collapse. Conversely, the high 
          value of fins (which can fetch $600 or more a pound) 
          incentivizes overfishing and the practice of finning. The 
          situation is very much like the ivory trade ban - elephants were 
          primarily targeted for high-priced ivory, though meat, hides and 
          other products find limited market. Opponents, however, argue 
          that banning only the fin disproportionately impacts one 
          cultural group, as shark fin soup is almost the sole use for 
          shark fin. 

           Similar efforts.  Recently, Washington, Hawaii, Guam, and the 
          Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands enacted legislation to 
          eliminate the shark fin trade within their territorial 
          boundaries. The Oregon Legislature just passed legislation this 
          month that would establish a shark fin ban. Also, a member of 
          China's parliament has introduced a measure this year that would 
          ban shark fin in China.
          
          SUPPORT
          Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance (Sponsor)
          Monterey Bay Aquarium (Sponsor)
          7th Generation Advisors
          Action for Animals
          Animal Place
          Aquarium of the Bay
          Asian Americans for Community Involvement
          Asian and Pacific Islanders California Action Network
          Betty Yee, Member, State Board of Equalization
          Born Free USA
          Cal Coast
          California Academy of Science
          California Association of Zoos and Aquariums
          California Coastal Commission
          California Coastkeeper Alliance
          California League of Conservation Voters
          California Travel Association
          COARE
          Coastside Fishing Club
          County of Santa Cruz Board of Supervisor
          Defenders of Wildlife
          Environment California
          Environmental Defense Fund
          Food Empowerment Project
          Green Chamber of Commerce
          Heal the Bay
          Jim Toomey - Sherman's Lagoon
          Natural Resources Defense Council
                                                                      6







          Ocean Conservancy
          Oceana
          Orange County Baykeepers
          Orange County Coastkeeper
          Pacific Environment
          PawPAC
          Planning and Conservation League
          Reef Check
          San Francisco Baykeeper
          SeaStewards
          Shark Savers
          Sierra Club California
          Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles
          Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Santa Cruz
          The Bay Institute
          The Body Glove
          The Humane Society of the United States
          The Nature Conservancy
          The Sportfishing Conservancy
          United Anglers
          United Anglers of Southern California
          WildAid
          Wildcoast 
          Numerous individuals
           
          OPPOSITION
          Asian Food Trade Association
          Asian Nutrition and Health Association
          Chung Chou City, Inc.
          National Chinese Welfare Council of Los Angeles County
          Oriental Food Association
          Stockton Seafood Center, Inc.
          Numerous individuals (including business owners, family 
          associations)













                                                                      7