California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed A.B. 376 into law. The new law, originally introduced by Assembly Members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman, amends the Fish and Game Code to make it unlawful for "any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin."
There are exceptions for persons who obtain a license or permit to catch a shark. Restaurants in possession of shark fin as of January 1, 2012 may serve it as food until January 1, 2013.
The purpose of the new law basically is to stop the cruel practice of shark finning: The shark is caught, its fins are cut off and the animal is dumped back into the water, many times still alive, and left to die a slow, painful death. Without its fins, the shark is also likely to starve or drown because the animal cannot move through the water, something most need to do to force water through their gills for oxygen.
Also, the shark population is in steep decline because of overfishing, as much as 90% over the past 20 years.
Shark fins are used for a soup consumed as an Asian delicacy and also for makeup and some vitamins. More than 85% of shark fins that are consumed in the U.S. are – or were – eaten in California.
A similar bill was enacted in Washington state this year. The Shark Conservation Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the last Congressional session but failed to come to a vote in the Senate.