Shark fin soup could be banned in California

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A proposal to ban shark fin soup in California has met with outrage and controversy from some members of the community.

A bill which is currently moving through the state legislature would ban the sale, distribution and possession of shark fins. Currently laws exist to prevent shark finning in U.S. waters but don’t stop the fins being imported from other countries.

Local chefs have got behind environmentalists to support the bill saying that the flavour of the soup comes from the broth the fin is served in and that they can mimic the texture using substitutes such as thinly sliced sea cucumber or braised abalone.

However, the legislation has met with outrage in San Franciso – a city with the oldest Chinatown and the largest Asian population of any US state.

Henry Cheung, president of Charlie Seafood Inc said: "This is traditional for us. When you say no to shark fin, that's profiling. The law doesn't ban shark meat or a handbag made with shark skin — just fins. I myself believe it's unfair."

State Senator Leland Yee D-San Francisco added that it was "an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine," and emphasised that more effort should be placed on strengthening conservation efforts and increasing penalties for illegally killing sharks.

Monterey Bay Aquarium commissioned a survey that found 76% of the people surveyed supported a ban. However 70% of Asian American’s questioned also supported the ban showing that the custom is becoming less popular.

The measure is awaiting a hearing by the state Assembly. Hawaii has already adopted a ban, and similar legislation is advancing in Oregon and Washington state.