Players: California Assemblyman Paul Fong and shark supporters; state Senator Ted Lieu and those who oppose Fong's bill to ban shark fins
The Opening Serve: Assemblyman Paul Fong is trying to pass a bill that would prohibit the sale, purchase or possession of shark fins in California (except for licensed fishermen) in order to save endangered shark populations. "If they do go extinct, the top predator would be removed from the food chain and that would throw the ocean's ecosystem into a huge imbalance," Fong said in the San Jose Mercury News. "And that will affect us all." Fong's Bill passed the State Assembly in May with relative ease, 65-8, but its effect on shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy that fetches upwards of $100 a bowl, has spurred the bill's detractors to deem it discriminatory. "The Chinese culture...used to promote foot binding on women," said Fong, who is Chinese and grew up on the soup, in a sharp rebuttal. Asian chefs like Charles Phan and celebrity chef Martin Yan have thrown their support behind the bill. "It's never easy when you try to tell people what not to eat, but, in my view, the ocean needs protection," said Phan to the San Francisco Chronicle. "You might call it part of Chinese culture, but if you keep it up, shark will disappear. We need to do what's right for Mother Earth."
The Return Volley: State Senator Ted Lieu thinks the bill is inconsistent and thereby racist. "Under this bill you could have a store in Beverly Hills sell a $440 shark-skin wallet; you could have a store in Malibu serve shark steak," Lieu said in an ABC report. "But you would ban the person from going to Chinatown and having shark-fin soup." State Senator Leeland Yee added in The Chronicle, "Right now, Costco sells shark steak...What are you going to do with the fins from that shark? This is another example in a long line of examples of insensitivity to the culture and traditions of the Asian American community." "I understand racism, and this isn't a racist act," Fong responded in the Mercury News. "There are plenty of other ways to display your wealth."