Senator Leland Yee Throws Down: Goes to Chinatown, Supports a Nuanced Approach to Shark Fin Soup

Senator Leland Yee made it clear today that he doesn’t support illegal finning of sharks. But he opposes the idea of an absolute ban on shark fin soup in CA. It’s a “cultural showdown,” don’t you know.

Your State Senator in Chinatown. (Is this hostile territory for him now? It sure wasn’t a few years back, that’s for sure. No matter, they love him in the West Side of town, you ought to see it sometime. He has loads of boosters out there, irregardless of what the politicos of Chinatown say or do. Those voters might come in handy during our next Mayoral election, non?)

Click to expand

It looks like soup was on the menu at this particular presser, huh?

Don’t know a whole bunch about this issue, excepting for this back in aught-nine and the occasional sidewalk shark sighting you tend to have about town.

All the deets below, plus the minority report from Mssrs. Fong and Huffman, after the jump

“Senator Yee, San Francisco Chinese Restaurants Call for Greater Conservation Efforts, Not Ban on Cultural Cuisine. Yee Says Ban on Shark Fin Soup is the Wrong Answer to a Legitimate Problem

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) joined dozens of San Francisco Chinese restaurants to oppose a bill to ban the sale of shark fin soup and make it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, trade, or distribute a shark fin.
Yee released the following statement:
“I am very concerned with the plight of many shark species and the illegal shark fining trade.  That is why I support the federal law that bans the practice of killing sharks only for their fins and I would support state legislation to strengthen it.  I would also support legislation to create greater penalties for and enforcement of illegally killing sharks or selling any product from an endangered species. 
However, the proposed state law to ban all shark fins from consumption – regardless of species or how they were fished or harvested – is the wrong approach and an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine.   Some sharks are well-populated and many can and should be sustainably fished.
Unfortunately, this proposal is just the latest assault on Asian cultural cuisine.  Last week, we had to fight a proposal at the California Fish and Game Commission that would have banned frog and turtle consumption.  I had to pass legislation last year just to allow for the production of Asian rice noodles, and similar bills were needed to allow for Korean rice cakes.  There have also been previous efforts to end live food markets, roasted duck, and several other cultural staples.
Rather than launch just another attack on Asian American culture, the proponents of the ban on shark fin soup should work with us to strengthen conservation efforts.”
Demonstrating Yee’s steadfast commitment to environmental protection, this past week he earned a 100 percent voting record with the California League of Conservation Voters.  Yee was one of only two senators to receive perfect scores on every environmental scorecard in 2010, including the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action. 

Senator Yee, San Francisco Chinese Restaurants Oppose Ban on Shark Fin Soup
Yee calls for greater conservation efforts, not ban on cultural cuisine

WHAT:Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) will joined dozens of San Francisco restaurants to oppose a bill to ban the sale of shark fin soup and make it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, trade, or distribute a shark fin. Yee is calling for greater conservation efforts including greater penalties for and enforcement of illegally killing sharks, but believes the proposed state law to ban all shark fins from consumption – regardless of species or how they were fished or harvested – is the wrong approach and an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine. Some sharks are well-populated and many can be sustainably fished.

WHO:Senator Leland Yee

Bill Lee, Far East Cafe

Willy Ng, Koi Palace
Timothy Lee, Imperial Palace
Hon So, New Asia Restaurant
Elaine Chiu, Grand Place Restaurant
Kon Hung Chan, South Sea Seafood Village
Michael Ou, The Kitchen
Henry Cheung, Charlie Seafood Inc.
Michael Kwong, Hop Woo Co., Ltd.
Best Trade Company
Paul Lee, City Super

WHERE:Far East Café
631 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, California

And here’s the other side:

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 14, 2011  — California Assembly Members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman today introduced a bill to prohibit the sale of shark fins in California to the State Assembly. California is one of the largest sources of demand for shark fin outside Asia and this bill would represent a major step towards reducing pressure on shark populations. Furthermore the bill complements the ban introduced in both Hawaii and the Commonwealth of North Mariana Islands (CNMI) as well as restrictions established by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

Every year fins from up to 73 million sharks are used for shark fin soup, which is contributing to the decimation of shark populations worldwide so that now one third of shark species are threatened with extinction. As sharks play a vital role in the oceans, their depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems.

Since 1999, San Francisco-based WildAid ( has researched the shark fin trade in over a dozen countries and has been working internationally to reduce demand for shark fin.  They released dramatic evidence that sharks are being finned alive for soup. Footage shot by WildAid shows a live tawny nurse shark dumped on an Indonesian reef with its fins removed. “This footage is definitive proof that sharks are being finned alive for soup,” said Peter Knights, Director of WildAid. “There is currently no law on the books in the U.S. to stop finned sharks from ending up in a bowl of soup here.”

Actor and UN Environment Ambassador Edward Norton, who works with WildAid said “As a life-long diver, I have seen the depletion of sharks caused by the shark fin trade first-hand all over the world from Indonesia to the Galapagos Islands. The Fong/Huffman bill is a vital step towards reducing demand and protecting these important animals and has my full support.”

Shark fin soup is widely available from Chinese restaurants in the U.S. WildAid’s survey found one third of Chinese restaurants in San Francisco serving the dish priced from $6.95 to $85 a bowl.

Fins from up to 73 million sharks a year are used for shark fin soup often with the bodies of the animal dumped overboard dead or alive. Given the high price that shark fin soup commands, shark poaching is rife in marine protected areas, such as the Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island. There have been seizures of up to 10,000 fins at a time and most recently WildAid-trained sniffer dogs uncovered an illegal cache of fins in the Galapagos.  

In a recent study the world’s top shark scientists (IUCN Shark Specialist Group) reported that of 64 species of open ocean sharks and rays, 32% are “threatened with extinction,” primarily due to overfishing. In addition, 24% were “near threatened,” while another 25% could not be assessed due to lack of data. Sharks are highly vulnerable to overfishing due to their late maturity and slow reproduction. Globally shark catches are unregulated or unsustainable and the shark fin trade is unregulated worldwide.

In China, there is a growing groundswell of opposition to shark finning. NBA star and one of China’s most popular figures, Yao Ming, has recorded WildAid public service announcements using the new footage. Other Chinese sporting and movie icons, as well as leading businessmen, are taking a stand by refusing to eat shark fin soup. Li Ning, who lit the Olympic torch and Liu Huan, who sang in the Beijing Opening ceremony, and a number of Olympians, including North America’s Tara Kirk and Amanda Beard, have all pledged to not eat shark fin soup and have also recorded public service announcements. The campaign has been featured on China’s CCTV networks featuring 20 Olympic gold medalists and has reached hundreds of millions of Chinese. Chinese business leaders joined the pledge and Alibaba (the Chinese Ebay equivalent) now prohibits the sale of shark fin through their site.

“Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, but at the current rate of overfishing they could be wiped out in a single human generation,” said Knights. “Fisheries regulation on the ground has utterly failed to reduce overfishing, market approaches like this bill are the way to go.”

A recent report The Future of Sharks: A Review of Action and Inaction found that only 13 of the top 20 shark fishing nations have developed national plans of action to protect sharks—one of the primary recommendations from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 2001—and it remains unclear how those plans have been implemented or whether they have been effective.  


WildAid’s mission is to end illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes.  We do this through global multimedia public awareness, field conservation programs and enforcement of marine protected areas.  Our communications campaigns feature Asian and Western athletes, musicians, actors, celebrities and prominent individuals reaching audiences of 1 billion in China and over 700 million in India.  We leverage over $100 million in pro-bono media from 50+ media companies to reach consumers via television, cable, internet, mobile devices, magazines, outdoor billboards, LCD screens and monitors in government buildings, shopping centers, banks, university cafeterias, trains, subways, taxis, metro rails, airplanes, hospitals and airports. 

We also have a field conservation program in India and enforce marine protected areas in Raja Ampat (Daram Marine Reserve) Indonesia and Galapagos Islands(Galapagos Marine Reserve), Ecuador.

WildAid Ambassadors include Yao Ming, Jackie Chan, Guo Jing Jing, Michelle Yeoh, Yang Lan, Tony Leung, Lang Lang, Liu Huan, Joan Chen, Harrison Ford, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Carmelo Anthony, Sir Ben Kingsley,  Ralph Fiennes, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Ambitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, and many more.  

We are currently primarily focused on demand reduction for sharks, tigers, elephants, rhinos, bears, sea turtles and coral. To learn more go to www.wildaid.

Extensive Footage of shark finning, fin trade and preparing shark fin and stills available.


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3 Responses to “Senator Leland Yee Throws Down: Goes to Chinatown, Supports a Nuanced Approach to Shark Fin Soup”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yancey at Yancey G and SF Community News, SFCitizen. SFCitizen said: Senator Leland Yee Throws Down: Goes to Chinatown, Supports a Nuanced Approach to Shark Fin Soup […]

  2. Harry says:

    I think he needs to educate himself about this issue! But it probably is expedient in terms of his political contributions.

  3. As one of the Bill sponsors who has met with him and discussed the issue I can say that the Senator is fully informed on the facts of the issue.
    He is an ocean and supporter of ocean health. This is a political decision to avoid alienating a constituency.
    However, a strong support from Asian community supporting the ban has him thinking. I hope he backs away and does the right thing for the ocean.

    David McGuire
    Director, Sea Stewards