California Governor Jerry Brown speaks after vetoing the budget passed the day before by state legislators in Los Angeles, California June 16, 2011.
California Governor Jerry Brown. Reuters

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Friday, that bans any sale, trade and possession of shark fins. The bill, which will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, was promulgated to protect the dwindling shark population.

“Researchers estimate that some shark populations have declined by more than 90 percent, portending grave threats to our environment and commercial fishing,’’ said Brown. In the interest of future generations, I have signed this bill.”

“The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans,” the governor said in a statement.

According to Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, a Chinese American, who submitted the proposal that Brown signed, it's important to protect endangered shark species. But some Asian Americans called the measure racist because the fins are the main ingredient in a traditional Asian soup, which is served on important occasions like weddings.

According to some Asian American members of the legislature, the bill had racist undertones even though the proposal was drew up by a Chinese American.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who is also Chinese American, opposed the ban, calling it an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine.

According to Yee, opponents to the ban feel it specifically targets Chinese culture, because teh bill focuses just on the shark fin, not the whole shark.

But according to proponents, shark populations are declining, and it's the hunt for valuable shark fins, which sell for hundreds of dollars per pound, that should be blamed for the problem. Proponents said the ban will help to suppress shark fining.

It's estimated that about 73 million sharks are killed by fishermen for their fins.

I respect the governor's decision and now hope the proponents of AB376 will focus on protecting sharks, such as the spiny dogfish shark, from being endangered due to consumption of its meat, such as in steaks and fish and chips, Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance said in a statement.

Californians can be proud of their role in giving these remarkable top predators a chance to recover their populations and helping to restore balance to our oceans, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, co-author of the bill, said.

Several celebrities and sports figures including actress Bo Derek, retired NBA center Yao Ming of China and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, supported the ban. The Humane Society of the U.S. and the Humane Society International are also among supporters of the ban.

Sharks need their fins, and we don't, said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society's California director. The momentum to protect sharks globally has taken a huge step forward.

There are similar bills in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Guam, that ban the sale, trade and possession of shark fins.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Micronesia will possibly put the process to sign a ban on all shark fishing on its work schedule, and Fiji is considering a possible ban on all shark meat and products.