Illinois may soon follow in the footsteps of California and three other states by moving to ban the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fin.
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) late last month introduced a proposed shark fin ban that would amend the city's Fish and Aquatic Life Code, as of Jan. 1, 2013, to outlaw the controversial key ingredient of what is considered a very special treat in some Asian traditions.
Feigenholtz told the Chicago Sun-Times that she has "a very large, devoted-to-animal group in my district. So this landed on my doorstep." She reportedly worked with the Illinois chapter of the Humane Society, which is campaigning nationwide against the sale of shark fin.
The group says that the "finning" of sharks is "an abhorrent practice that involves slicing off the fins of a shark and discarding the animal at sea to drown or bleed to death." They argue that such fishing methods have led to drastic declines -- as much as 90 percent -- in some shark populations in recent decades. Critics of the practice say fishermen kill as many as 73 million sharks each year for their fins.
Last fall, California became the fourth state to ban the sale, trade and possession of shark fins over some objections that some Asian cultures consider shark fin soup a delicacy. Hawaii, Washington and Oregon -- as well as Guam -- have also banned shark fin.
Early last year, President Obama signed into law the Shark Conservation Act, which closed previous loopholes which had allowed some fishermen to continue to legally fin sharks. The European Commission also has proposed a shark finning ban covering all EU waters.
Feigenholtz noted to the Sun-Times that she was unsure the legislation will make it to a floor vote, even as several Chicago-area restaurants that have the shark fin soup on their menu told the paper they don't foresee much of a reduction in business if they were no longer able to sell the dish.