Assemblymember Paul Fong Talks About the Shark's Fin Ban

Assemblymember Paul Fong
On Monday, the California State Assembly voted to pass AB-376, a proposed ban on the sale and import of shark's fin. The ban, which has been publicly condemned by state senator Leland Yee and SF mayor Ed Lee, is intended to prevent the practice of shark finning, which is decimating shark populations around the globe. (I wrote about the bill in March.) AB-376 was introduced by Assemblymembers Paul Fong (D.-Mountainview) and Jared Huffman (D.-San Rafael). Yesterday, I spoke to Assemblymember Fong about the bill.

SFoodie: Assemblymember Fong, congratulations on getting the bill passed. Given the fact that there are already federal laws banning the practice of shark finning, what led you to introduce a state bill banning all shark fin sales?

Fong: The federal law has been toothless. It hasn't been effective in curtailing the market for shark fin. So we had to cut off the demand.

You were able to pass AB-376 with a vote of 60 to 8. How much work did it take to secure the backing of other assemblymembers?

It wasn't that difficult, actually. The [assemblymembers] have received tens of thousands of support letters from voters. That was key -- the overwhelming amount of people in California support the shark fin ban.

Now that AB-376 is passing to the Senate, have you been working to build support there? Have you found a senator willing to usher the bill through committee?

I've talked to a few senators, and my staff has been talking to their staff members. We have several possibilities for people who will usher the bill through the Senate.

Were you taking a political risk with your constituents by introducing a shark-fin ban?

No, not actually. Seventy-six percent of all California voters, and 70 percent of all Chinese American voters in the state, support a ban on shark's fin. So it wasn't a risk. In my area, I only received eight opposition letters, and received thousands of letters of support. Those opposing the ban were mostly people who have been involved with the shark's fin trade, either suppliers or restaurants.

What's the response you've gotten from the international community?

The international press is more supportive than the national press. I have a lot of support in Hong Kong -- and I've received many letters of support from people in Hong Kong. In Mainland China, a legislator, a member of parliament, has introduced a parliamentary letter proposing a shark-fin ban. This is not a Chinese thing versus environmental thing. It's just the right thing to do.

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The Seventy-six percent of all California voters, and 70 percent of all Chinese American voters in the state result was out a survey of 600 voters. In California, we have over 20 millions californians and over 10 millions voters. 600 voters to determined this bill have been supported is a joke. From the opposite side of the bill that they collected 10,000 voters opposed to this bill and their percentage is 100%.

Sharon Kwok
Sharon Kwok

Hello Paul: Like Wildfire, the Hong Kong public is starting to really take notice. A global ban can only happen with paramount effort from many like minded individuals and you are one of the heros leading the way. I believe that currently, the ultimate market is mainland China. Unless the listener is a devout buddhist, words about cruelty almost always fall upon deaf ears when one is talking about (in their minds) food. Traditional Chinese still believe the saying: ' Anything with it's back facing the sky is meant for food'. Therefore, unsustainability is a better point to raise while fins being a health risk is probably the best. Let's all continue to make waves to save our sharks, our oceans, our planet, and ourselves.


"The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply

rooted in tradition and surrounded by halo. When we have a choice, we

must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even

the lowliest creature; not to do so is to renounce our manhood and

shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies." -- Albert Schweitzer


Assemblymember Fong is right on about the huge support amongst Chinese Americans in California. Our culture is heavily influenced by the philosophy of Confucius, who's teachings implore us to seek moral perfection, and to live a virtuous life. The shark fin ban is a fine example of that. Thank you Assemblymember Fong and Huffman.

Eric Mills
Eric Mills

Heartfelt thanks, Mr. Fong.  You've been an inspiration, and are currently my Assemblymember of the Year.

Once the sharks are safe, I'm hoping that you and coo-author Jared Huffman might take on the live animal food markets, where the problems are much the same.  California annually imports two MILLION American bullfrogs (commercially raised in Taiwan), plus an estimated 300,000-400,000 freshwater turtles, for human consumption

PROBLEMS IN THE MARKETS:  (1) horrendous animal cruelty, with animals kept in unsanitary conditions, many of them butchered while fully conscious; (2) an unsustainable "harvest," with all of the market turtles being taken from the wild in states east of the Rockies, depleting local populations; (3) environmental degradation, when non-native species (frogs/turtles) are bought and released into local waters, where they prey upon and displace our native species; and (4) the serious risks to the health of those who consume these animals--all are diseased and parasitized.  Some 25 necropsies in recent years have documented E. coli, salmonella, pasturella (all potentially fatal in humans), giardia, blood parasites, even one case of malaria.  Worse, a 2009 study published in BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION showed that, of the market frogs necropsied, 62% testified positive for the dreaded chytrid fungus, which has caused the extinctions of some 200 amphibian species worldwide in recent years.

Hope you can help.  Some misguided few, as with the shark fin issue, will see this as an attack upon the Asian-American community.  It's not.   As with the sharks, it's a matter of animal welfare and environmental protection, plus protection of the public health.

Again, thank you for your efforts.  They are much appreciated.

Anyone wishing to work on this issue can email me at


Eric Mills, coordinatorACTION FOR ANIMALSOakland  


Kudos to Assemblymember Fong. What an important step toward ending shark cruelty. It's not about soup, it's about cutting limbs off of still living creatures and tossing them back into the ocean to die a slow, painful death.

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