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California Joins Global Movement to Save Sharks

Posted: 10/07/11 05:09 PM ET

It's official: With a stroke of California Governor Jerry Brown's pen, the entire U.S. West Coast has now banned the trade of shark fins.

We've been working to support the bill since its introduction; we called our legislators and Governor Brown and urged them to protect sharks, and I know many others did, too. Thankfully, our lawmakers listened.

Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. In case you're unfamiliar, shark finning is a shocking practice in which a shark's fins are sliced off at sea and the shark is thrown back in the water to bleed to death. Shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, but the shark fin trade persists.

According to government data, approximately 85 percent of dried shark fin imports to the United States came through California last year, making California the hub of the US shark fin market. But thanks to Governor Brown, this will no longer be the case.

California has joined the ranks of a growing number of governments rallying to protect the top predators in the oceans. Washington State, Oregon and Hawaii have all passed similar bans. And the movement here in the U.S. reflects a global trend. The Pacific nation of Palau created a shark sanctuary two years ago, and other countries have followed suit in shark conservation efforts. As a result of Oceana's efforts, this summer Chile passed a national ban on shark finning. And most recently, Mexico and the Marshall Islands have announced plans for new shark protections.

It's encouraging to see that the momentum to protect sharks is growing around the world. Sharks are magnificent predators that have been on the planet for more than 400 million years. Shark populations around the world are crashing, which has cascading consequences on the marine food web. They play a vital role in maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems, but due to their slow growth rate and low level of reproduction, sharks are especially vulnerable to fishing pressure.

We're glad Governor Brown continued California's leadership in ocean conservation. Thanks to everyone who spoke up to help score this monumental victory for sharks.

Actress January Jones ("Mad Men") is the spokesperson for Oceana's shark campaign. Watch video, see photos, and learn more about why January is scared for sharks.