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Battle At Capitol Over Bill Banning Shark-Fin Trade

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Actress Bo Derek won’t be ordering shark-fin soup anytime soon.

She joined lawmakers at the California state Capitol on Monday promoting a bill that would ban selling, trading or possessing shark fins, which are used in a soup that is considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures.

“Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, and yet many stocks may be wiped out in a single human generation due to the increasing demand for shark fins,” Derek told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Derek, who is a U.S. secretary of state special envoy opposing wildlife trafficking, said shark-finning has created a global environmental crisis.

Derek and other opponents, some carrying stuffed toy sharks or wearing T-shirts in support of the legislation, said the practice is leading to a decline in several populations of sharks. Fishermen slice off the fins then throw the live sharks back into the ocean to die.

U.S. law restricts the practice domestically but cannot stop it in international waters. Supporters of AB376 say that’s why lawmakers need to target use of the fins in California, which has the most demand for the fins outside Asia.

Derek told committee members that 85 percent of dried shark fin imports to the United States come through California. She said the state imports at least 30 tons of dried fins each year.

“End our state’s involvement in this highly destructive global shark fin trade,” she urged committee members.

Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and several U.S. territories in the Pacific already have taken steps to eliminate the shark fin trade. Opponents from the fishing and shark-fin marketing industry testified the bill will harm them and cost the state jobs and tax income.

The Senate committee sent the bill to its suspense file, which is reserved for bills that could cost the state money. The committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, said the legislation could be amended to remove some exemptions that could permit some use of sharks before it is sent to the full Senate.

The bill was approved by the Assembly in May.

AB376 is one of hundreds of bills awaiting final action as lawmakers return from their summer break for the final weeks of the legislative session.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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