Oregon may soon join Hawaii and ban the sale and possession of shark fins, giving new energy to an environmental campaign that was galvanized by a story that appeared in WW last year.
Late last month, Oregon's House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass House Bill 2838, which would have the effect of removing shark fin soup from the menus of Chinese restaurants in Oregon. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy and is believed to have a number of health benefits, a belief rooted more in tradition than science.
Shark finning has been targeted in recent years by conservationists for two reasons. First, the finning of sharks, which involves slicing the dorsal fins off sharks and tossing the sharks back into the water, condemns them to a slow and inhumane death. (Because shark meat is worth much less than fins, the finless sharks are thrown back into the sea to make room on fishing vessels for more of the valuable fins.) Secondly, a number of shark species across the globe are increasingly endangered.
The shark fin bill, sponsored by state Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie), heads to the Senate, where there appears to be little opposition. While the finning of sharks in U.S. waters is currently illegal, the sale of shark fins in most of the country is not. Oregon would be the second state to enact such a ban, though Washington is likely to pass a similar law. A shark-fin ban is having a tougher go in California, where the state's large Chinese community is offering resistance.