The state Assembly has come to the defense of endangered sharks targeted by fishermen who amputate their fins and toss the live sharks back into the ocean.
AB376 bans the sale, trade or possession of shark fins, a delicacy that costs hundreds of dollars per pound and is used to create a soup popular among Asians.
The Assembly approved the bill 60-8. The bill's author, Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, and other supporters say the sharks are mutilated and risk extinction, which would wreak havoc on underwater ecosystems.
Some opponents said the legislation attacks cultural traditions and goes too far in dictating what Californians can eat. Others said it doesn't go far enough, because the rest of the shark can still be sold.
The bill now goes to the state Senate.
The proposed ban has become something of a landmine for local politicians trying to balance their constituencies' strong environmental proclivities against the resentment it has stirred in the Chinese-American community, which considers shark fin soup a delicacy.