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Two weeks ago, we reported that the New York State Senate had taken a major step towards banning shark fin soup–an elite delicacy in Chinatown and total horror show on the ocean floor. On Monday, the state Assembly unanimously agreed, cementing the decision to halt the sale, trade, and possession of fins. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.
Shark fishery managers have argued that state bans like New York’s could undermine federal regulations that aim to halt “finning,” the practice of slicing off sharks’ fins and leaving the animals to sink, alive but defenseless, to the bottom of the sea. Opponents have also emphasized the role of shark fin in traditional Chinese banquet culture. Still, New York lawmakers, their conservation allies, along with partners in the Asian-American community argue that federal regulations have not gone far enough–not when New York City remains one of the largest markets for fins outside of Asia and the largest port of entry on the East Coast.
“I am proud that New York is joining seven other states to ban the sale of shark fins and stand united against the cruel and inhumane practice of shark finning,” New York City Council Member Margaret Chin said in a statement. “I hope that New York will serve as an example not only nationally, but internationally, and that one day soon we will be celebrating the end of this industry all together.”
Patrick Kwan, director of grassroots organizing for The Humane Society of the United States, also highlighted the fact that every Asian-American lawmaker in the legislature and on City Council stood in full support of the ban. “They are not only supporting, but they are also leading the effort,” Kwan told the Voice.
“Restaurants and banquets may frequently peddle shark fin soup as the cultural centerpiece of Chinese culture,” Kwan said. “But personally, as a Chinese-American, I find it rather offensive to associate China’s culture with such extreme cruelty.”
Shark fin soup is nothing more than a status symbol, a “keeping up with the Joneses kind of dish,” Kwan added. “This was something that was eaten by the elites thousands of years ago. It was only served during the imperial banquets.”
Last year, China voted to get rid of shark fin soup at state banquets. Last week, Maryland’s governor signed a shark fin ban into law as well–though not for the spiny dogfish, a shark that shows up in fish and chips.