Remember foot binding? Probably not. That's because it went the way of the dodo, as should other cultural practices that are outdated or should never have existed in the first place. Let's be honest with ourselves, humans come up with some pretty messed up cultural traditions so it doesn't exactly break my heart when certain cultural practices are forcibly brought to an end (read more about my particular take on culture here).
But in all honesty the shark fin battle is about money, not about culture. That's why I almost cheered aloud in the theatre when a female Chinese-American stood up on the senate floor and stated the quote on the left in response to a paid-off lobbyist who claimed the anti-fin ban was a racist attack against the Chinese. You can see this wonderful moment in Phil Waller's new movie Extinction Soup.
California won another battle in the ongoing struggle to get its own shark fin ban going full force. Sadly its the feds that the state has had to deal with. A federal judge on Tuesday upheld California's ban on possession or sale of shark fins, rejecting claims that the law discriminates against the Chinese community - where shark fin soup is a traditional delicacy - or interferes with federal management of ocean fishing.
The law, passed in 2011, took full effect in July, when selling and serving shark fin soup became illegal. It was challenged by Bay Area organizations of Chinese American businesses and by shark fin suppliers, who argued that the legislation targeted the Chinese community and exceeded the state's authority to regulate fishing.
The federal law "is intended to preserve the nation's fishery resources and to promote conservation," purposes consistent with those of the California law, Orrick said in his most significant ruling since Obama appointed him to the bench in May. He said Congress did not intend to "maximize fishing or the sale of fish" and did not require states to "allow the possession or trading of shark fin - even shark fin lawfully landed."
Orrick also said the state law would have more of an effect on the Chinese American community than it would elsewhere, but federal courts require proof of intentional discrimination to overturn a law, and there was no such evidence in this case.
"People of Chinese origin or culture undoubtedly overwhelmingly comprise the market for shark fin," the judge wrote. "However, a law is not unconstitutional simply because it has a racially disparate impact."
The law applies equally throughout the state, Orrick said, and was based on legislative findings that the California shark fin market boosted the market for shark finning, which was contributing to the decline of a species critical to the health of the ocean's ecosystem.
Lawyers for the law's opponents were unavailable for comment. They could appeal the ruling.
Debra Canabal of Epic Diving in the WSV hoodie. Get yours!
About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.