SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – California’s criminalization of possessing and selling shark fins is unconstitutional, the Asian American Rights Committee of California claims in state court.
“Shark fin soup is an Asian cultural delicacy with origins in the Ming Dynasty. It is a ceremonial centerpiece of traditional Chinese banquets, as well as celebrations of weddings and birthdays of one’s elders,” the committee’s complaint states.
The group claims that Assembly Bills 376 and 853, co-authored by Paul Fong, who is of Chinese descent, violate the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and constitute an unlawful taking of private property.
As of July 1, 2013, owning or selling shark fins in California will be punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
The Legislature passed the law to try to stop “shark finning,” in which a shark’s fin is cut off and the live shark is tossed back into the ocean to die a slow death.
A pound of shark fin can fetch up to $600.
“Absent a judicial declaration that the Shark Fin Ban violates the United States Constitution, AARCCA’s members face potential criminal sanctions for ongoing business activities that they have legitimately pursued for as many as 35 years, in which they have invested substantially, and on which the vast majority of their income depends,” the complaint states.
It adds: “A significant number of the shark fins that AARCCA’s members possess, sell, trade, or distribute cross state lines as domestic imports or exports from outside of the United States.
“By outlawing the acquisition, possession or sale of shark fins in California, the Shark Fin Ban not only burdens but entirely eliminates this interstate trade.”
The group claims its members “supply nearly 100 percent of the shark fins consumed by Asian Americans in California.” Its members also supply shark fins to most large cities in the U.S.
The group seeks declaratory and injunctive relief preventing the state from enforcing the ban.
It is represented by Christopher Carr with Morrison & Foerster.