One Step Closer to Victory

6 Sep

Copyright Rob Allen

The California Senate passed Assembly Bill 376 today by a vote of 25 to 9. The bill, which previously passed the state Assembly by a vote of 65 to 8, effectively prohibits the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins within the state. Given his strong environmental record, Governor Brown is expected to sign this into law as soon as next week.

California is said to be the largest source of demand for shark fins outside of Asia, so this bill represents a major step toward reducing pressure on shark populations. Once signed into law, California will follow Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon, where similar legislation has previously passed.

Assembly Members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman introduced the bill earlier this year, which has been championed by a coalition including WildAid, Oceana, the Humane Society of the United States, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and backed by community leaders and Hollywood heavyweights.

Though polling suggested that 70% of Chinese-American voters in California support the bill, San Francisco mayoral candidate Senator Leland Yee led the opposition, working with high-priced lobbying firms to try to water down the bill with amendments and/or exclusions.

Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid, testified several times before the state legislature, as did actress Bo Derek, an advocate and WildAid board member.

“Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, and could be wiped out in a single human generation due to an increasing demand for their fins,” said Knights. ”Fisheries regulation on the ground has utterly failed to reduce overfishing — market approaches like this are crucial.”

Fins from up to 73 million sharks per year are used to make shark fin soup, a vastly popular Asian delicacy. Captured at sea and hauled on deck, the sharks are often still alive while their fins are sliced off. Because shark meat is not considered as valuable as shark fin, the maimed animals are tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death. The process is called shark finning, a wasteful and cruel practice still legal in much of the world.

What is Shark Finning? (infographic)

5 Sep
WildAid and Kiki Karpus teamed up to create this infographic to explain the process of shark finning, the business of the trade, and why we should care.

Calling All Shark-Lovers

30 Aug

Assembly Bill 376, which bans the trade of shark fins, will soon face a critical vote in the California State Senate, and it needs your help.  For the sake of the tens of millions of sharks that are slaughtered every year to make shark fin soup.  For the sake of the millions of people worldwide who rely upon the health of our oceans. Here’s how you can help:

If you live in California:

1) Using this handy tool, enter your zip code, and find out who your state senator is.

2) Dial his/her phone number.

3) Whether someone answers or its a voicemail, tell them your name, your zip code, and that you support Assembly Bill 376 without amendments.

4) Sign our Shark Pledge, which calls upon global leaders to act now to protect our sharks and preserve the health of our oceans.

5) Share this with your family and friends. Use Twitter, Facebook, or whatever platform you have, to spread the word.

If you live elsewhere in the world:

1) Sign our Shark Pledge, which calls upon global leaders to act now to protect our sharks and preserve the health of our oceans.

2) Share this with your family and friends in California. Use TwitterFacebook, or whatever platform you have, to spread the word.

A third of open-ocean shark species are already threatened with extinction.  We can’t afford to wait any longer.

CA Shark Fin Ban Leaps Over Major Hurdle

26 Aug

On Thursday, Assembly Bill 376, which would ban the sale, trade and possession of shark fins in the state of California, cleared the state Senate Appropriations Committee on a 5-2 vote.  The bill now moves to the Senate floor, where a vote is expected in the next couple of weeks.

Shark fin is the main ingredient in the Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup, which can fetch up to $100 USD a bowl.  Every year, fins from up to 73 million sharks are used for shark fin soup.  The practice, known as finning, is a gruesome processes by which the fins are sliced off (often while the animal is still alive), and then the shark is tossed back into the ocean to drown or bleed to death.  Consequently, more than half of open-ocean sharks are threatened with extinction.  Since sharks are apex predators, their removal would lead to disastrous consequences throughout the entire marine ecosystem.

If AB376 is passed, California would join Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii where similar legislation has been passed.

73 Million Sharks Need Your Help

13 Aug

*UPDATE* On Thursday, August 25th, California’s Senate Appropriations committee votes on Assembly Bill 376, a bill that would effectively ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins in the state.  California controls an estimated 85 percent of the shark fin trade in the U.S., so this legislation is critical. If passed, California would become the most prominent US state to show its support for shark conservation, after similar legislation passed in Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon.

AB 376 already passed the State Assembly by a vote of 65-8, with bipartisan support. But now its fate lies in the Senate.

“Finning” is the process by which sharks are hauled on deck, their fins are sliced off, and the maimed sharks are usually tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death since shark fins are considered much more valuable than shark meat. Every year fins from up to 73 million sharks are used for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy that can fetch up to $100 USD per bowl. Currently, an estimated 1/3 of pelagic (open ocean) shark species are threatened with extinction.  As sharks play a vital role in the oceans, their depletion would cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems.

More than a dozen organizations support the ban including The Asian Pacific American (APA) Ocean Harmony Alliance, WildAid, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

What can you do to lend your support?

If You Live in California:

Use this tool to find your state Senator. Call him or her TODAY to say, “I am a constituent and urge your support of A.B. 376 to prohibit the sale of shark fins in California.”  Your call will make a difference.

If You Live Elsewhere:

We still need your support.  Commit to shark conservation by signing our Global Shark Pledge.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates or sign up for our e-mail newsletter.

Shark Poachers Caught Red-Handed in the Galapagos

9 Aug

The Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is one of the largest Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the world.  Since 1998, WildAid has been working with the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) in developing a comprehensive enforcement strategy to patrol and protect the GMR, where commercial fishing is prohibited.

In 2009, WildAid helped implement a Satellite Vessel Monitoring System (SVMS) to track the exact position and speed of all large vessels traveling within the reserve on an hourly basis.  In the first year, 32 vessels were apprehended using SVMS and the Rapid Response Patrol Fleet.

Here is a timeline of a recent arrest:

On July 9, 2011, the GNPS was notified via SVMS that a commercial fishing boat from the mainland of Ecuador, the Fer Mary I, was stationed 20 miles within the reserve. They dispatched a patrol vessel, the Sea Ranger, to investigate and discovered that the Fer Mary was fishing within the protected area.

The Fer Mary and six accompanying fiberglass vessels were using long-lines to fish for sharks and other pelagic species. All shark fishing and the use of long-lines is prohibited within the reserve.

The GNPS boarded the culprit vessel to investigate and found approximately 30 crewmen, including two minors, aboard.

The GNPS examined the cargo, namely the carcasses of hundreds of sharks.

In total, they found 379 sharks, including 303 thrasher sharks, 24 blue sharks, 42 silky sharks, 5 scalloped hammerheads, 2 tiger sharks, 2 Galapagos sharks, and 1 shortfin mako shark.

The suspects were apprehended and the goods were confiscated and brought to the nearest port where the prosecutor’s office is currently working on the case.

To learn more about WildAid’s work in The Galapagos Marine Reserve, visit

(Photos courtesy of the Galapagos National Park)

Top 5 Shark Week Losers

4 Aug

With Discovery’s uber-successful stunt, Shark Week, coming to a close, shark awareness is at a record high.  Even Taylor Swift was watching.  Meanwhile, conservationists are fighting hard to protect shark populations from overfishing and to reduce the demand for shark products –namely the Asian delicacy shark fin soup, for which up to 73 million sharks are killed every year.  There are some people who just get it, like Yao Ming who famously vowed to never eat shark fin soup again in a WildAid PSA.  Unfortunately, there are others who just don’t get it.  Here is a round-up of those Shark Week losers:

1) The Food Network

While conservationists are working hard around the world to establish shark sanctuaries and eliminate the trade of shark products, one of the most ubiquitous culinary brands in the world, the Food Network, is still hawking shark recipes and promoting the consumption of shark products.  Several years ago, Iron Chef featured shark fin as the ingredient-du-jour and to this day, Food Network’s repertoire of websites still features shark-based recipes.  Nothing says a family dinner like a Shark Bake with Garlic, Ginger, and Hot Pepper Oil. Let’s tell the Food Network to stop featuring shark as food – here’s a petition to help you do just that.

2) Hollywood

On September 2nd, Relativity Media will release the horror film Shark Night 3D.  With the tagline “Terror Runs Deep” and the film’s blood-splattered website featuring a bikini-clad vixen about to be eaten by a terrifying-looking Great White Shark, one doesn’t have to wonder what this film is about. If that’s not enough, it was just announced that filmmaker Paul Schrader is teaming up with American Psycho author, Bret Easton Ellis, on the film Bait, about a man who works at a beach club who “angles his way on to a yacht filled with the obnoxious elite, commandeering it into waters filled with the finned man-eaters.” Hollywood needs to stop demonizing sharks if we expect to public to rally in support of these animals.  If people knew the truth (you’re more likely to be killed by a pig or from a coconut falling from a tree), conservation efforts would be a bit easier.

3) Golden Unicorn Restaurant

The prominent New York City Cantonese-style restaurant, Golden Unicorn, still proudly serves piping hot bowls of shark fin soup.  The restaurant, which in 1996, was named by Food and Wine Magazine as one of NYC’s Five Best Restaurants, and has an average 3.5 star rating on Yelp, does not lack for good PR. I wonder what kind of PR they’d get if customers knew that in the time it takes to leisurely slurp down a bowl of shark fin soup, 5,000 sharks will have been finned alive and tossed back into the ocean to drown or bleed to death. Unfortunately, Golden Unicorn isn’t alone.  An estimated 55 restaurants in NYC, and 360 restaurants nationwide, still serve shark fin soup.  Is there one near you?

4) California State Senator Leland Yee

One of the most outspoken opponents to California’s Shark Fin Ban, AB 376, comes from SF Mayoral Candidate, Senator Leland Yee. The bill would effectively ban the sale, import, and trade of shark fins in California.  Armed with the support of a prestigious lobbying form, Senator Yee is pressuring the Senate Appropriations Committee to water down the bill with amendments and/or exclusions that would render the bill ineffective by allowing for loopholes to be exploited and the trade to continue. Leonardo Dicaprio, Edward Norton, Yao Ming, Scarlett Johansson, and other Hollywood heavyweights, in association with WildAid, NRDC, and HSUS, sent a letter to California Senators in support of AB 376.  A recent poll by the Monterey Bay Aquarium showed that 70% of Chinese American voters favor the ban. If you’re a Californian, contact your representative and pledge your support.

5) San Jose Sharks

While the San Jose Sharks are bolstering their roster in preparation for their upcoming season, just 150 miles away, AB 376 is making its way through the California State Legislature. Their mascot, Sharkie, promotes literacy and other philanthropic causes but has been radio silent when it comes to protecting his own species, especially with such an important piece of legislation requiring public support in his home state.  Mike Kwan, a San Francisco resident and fan of the San Jose Sharks, has started his own petition asking for the Sharks to finally take a stand on this issue. You can do it, Sharkie!