California Shark Fin Sales Ban Challenged in Group’s Suit

California was sued by San Francisco’s Chinatown Neighborhood Association over claims the state’s ban on shark fin sales discriminates against people of Chinese origin for whom the fins are a cultural tradition.

The group, whose members include people of Chinese ancestry engaged in cultural practices using shark fins or businesses that buy and sell the fins, filed a lawsuit yesterday in federal court in San Francisco. The state’s shark fin ban violates U.S. equal protection and interstate commerce laws and is overridden by federal laws governing shark fin sales, the association said in its complaint.

The association seeks a court order declaring the state ban unconstitutional.

California’s shark fin sales ban, passed by the Legislature last year, took effect in January and prohibits restaurants from selling any newly acquired shark fins starting July 1, 2013.

Shum Preston, a spokesman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, declined to immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Yesterday, five Chinese business leaders appeared in advertisements for the group WildAid in which they pledged not to eat shark fins, which are often served at business dinners, according to a statement.

The case is Chinatown Neighborhood Association v. Brown, 12-03759, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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