Shark Fin Bill AB 376 Passes One More Hurdle in California

It was a rare rainy June day in San Francisco as I crossed the San Rafael Bridge to meet The Shark Bus headed for Sacramento. Supporters of AB 376 were on our way on the Capitol to stand up for sharks and against the sale of shark fins in California.  But ours was a small group compared to the well financed opposition bussed up from Chinatown.

The fight has pitted influential Chinese American politicians against one another and Chinese traders and restaurant owners have spent large sums of money to hire lobbyists to oppose a ban.  Busloads of Chinatown residents descended on the Capitol, saying that a ban would violate cultural custom. In fact, the folks we spoke with didn’t seem to care much, it seemed that most were just along for the ride.

Last April, Assembly members Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) and Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced AB 376 at the California Academy of Science – proposing to make it illegal to sell, trade or distribute shark fins in California, which is one of the largest markets for fins outside of Asia.

Houston Rockets basketball star Yao Ming has joined other celebrities, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Scarlett Johansson, in public support of a ban. “Remember, when the buying stops, the killing can too,” says Ming in this riveting video.

Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Sunnyvale), a sponsor of the bill, said he “grew up on shark fin soup,” only lately to realize that “Anything that is unhealthy, that the culture is practicing, we should stop doing it. We used to bind women’s feet, and that was unhealthy for the woman.”

Sidewalk with Shark Fins in Hong Kong
Shark Fins on Hong Kong Sidewalk

Scientists say the fin trade has contributed to the catastrophic declines of shark populations worldwide, threatening to disrupt ocean ecosystems and encouraging the proliferation of other predators, which diminishes stocks of fish for human consumption.  Experts from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and The California Academy of Science are in strong support of the bill, and increased protection for sharks worldwide.

Shark finning has taken a horrifying toll on sharks, many species of which are now facing extinction. As much as 90% of the world’s sharks are already gone, and overfishing is the main culprit, with up to 100 million shark deaths each year. The practice is inherently cruel. Sharks are usually finned and thrown overboard alive. Unable to swim, they sink to the bottom to die a slow agonizing death.

Shark fin soup is strictly a luxury taste. Costing as much as $80 a serving in restaurants, it has been a Chinese delicacy for hundreds of years and often is served at weddings and banquets. It is a status symbol, considered to have medicinal properties, and its defenders see its consumption as a cultural right. Listen to what ‘Her Deepness’ Sylvia Earle has to say about what ‘luxury tastes’ are doing to our entire ocean planet, Click Here for her full BBC Interview.

But a growing number of Asian-Americans support AB 376. The Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance, for example, is a coalition of Asian Americans artists, scholars, environmentalists, elected officials, and community leaders who support a ban on the sale of shark fins. According to this group, thousands of years of eastern philosophy emphasize living in harmony with nature — not destroying it to make soup.

And a group of young Asian activists have started a ‘Sharkfin Photomob.’ ‘It’s not racist to love sharks’ is their motto, and their quickly growing website of supporters has been impossible for legislators to ignore.

Shark Fin Photomob

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) have proposed amendments to allow the sale of fins from sharks that are legally fished in California waters and the importation of fins that can be certified as having been sustainably harvested.

A compromise may be difficult to defend and enforce. To ban the sale of imported fins while allowing the sale of California fins would violate international trade rules. In addition, when you allow some but not all fins, it becomes impossible to enforce.

The bill passed the Assembly last month, 65-8, but is having more difficulty in the Senate. Tuesday, in a packed hearing room, the bill passed the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee 7-0, but only after Fong agreed to work with opponents to amend the bill before it goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is not expected to reach the full Senate before August.

Hawaii and Washington state have already passed shark fin bans, and President Obama earlier this year signed federal legislation tightening a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters.

Its important that we not lose momentum now in California. Its going to take a continued push to get AB 376 through the Senate, so please keep the pressure up by writing and calling your Senators – it really does make a difference!

The most important calls to make for now are to the Appropriations Committee. The hearing date is 7/11/11.

Urge these Senators to vote YES on AB 376!

Senator Christine Kehoe (Chair): (916) 651-4039

Senator Mimi Walters (Vice Chair): (916) 651-4033

Senator Elaine Alquist: (916) 651-4013

Senator Bill Emmerson: (916) 651-4037

Senator Ted W. Lieu: (916) 651-4028

Senator Fran Pavley: (916) 651-4023

Senator Curren Price: (916) 651-4026

Senator Sharon Runner: (916) 651-4017

Senator Darrell Steinberg:  (916) 651-4006

The Elephant in the Room ~ Fukushima

Normally I do not post material other than my own. But in this case I feel that this extremely thorough article on Fukushima’s status and measures we might want to consider taking is important for everyone to read.


By: Lila York

Remember Chandra Levy?   Her disappearance following an affair with her congressman was the national obsession in the summer of 2001 – until we awoke one Tuesday morning to see the World Trade Center towers on fire     In the summer of 2011 the nation, or at least the nation’s media, seems similarly obsessed with the murder trial of Casey Anthony and the twitter account of a New York congressman.   Meanwhile, the crisis at the Fukushima Daichi plant rages on with no resolution in sight and a cold shutdown now projected to be years away.

Until last week there was an apparent media blackout on the crisis, although some Americans, this writer included, have followed the status of the reactors daily at Energy News and Fairewinds, the website of nuclear energy expert, Arnie Gundersen.   The Fukushima reactors were built by General Electric, which also owns Comcast, NBC, CNBC and MSNBC, so the absence of timely information is not surprising.   One article early on in the crisis suggested that the reinsurance on Fukushima was held in part by AIG and Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, a supposition I cannot substantiate, but that may be true.   There is no doubt that we live in a time when corporate profits trump human safety and well-being, and we are seeing that manifest in this current crisis.   The best MSM sources for information over these last months have been Bloomberg, online and on television, and The Wall Street Journal, which have tracked the crisis primarily because it affects investment in Japanese companies.

Last week the Japanese government made startling announcements. Three of the five reactors experienced total meltdowns on March 11th, the day of the initial earthquake, and all three reactors have “melted through” leaky containment vessels, molten masses of melted fuel rods now fissioning  on the basement floors of those reactors.   The statement further confessed that levels of radiation released from the explosions were actually twice as high as initially reported, blaming the miscalculation on bad math.   (Indeed in the days after the March explosions plutonium was discovered on the ground in northern California and tritium in Vermont.)   In light of these revelations Arnie Gundersen did an interview on CNN last week (scroll down to see video), recommending that Americans wash produce thoroughly and stop drinking milk and eating dairy products.   He also suggested that any Americans wealthy enough to relocate to the southern hemisphere consider doing so, adding that Seattle residents were inhaling 5 “hot particles” or “fuel fleas” per day in the weeks following the explosions.   Democracy Now, Amy Goodman’s radio and television news program, which has not ignored the story over these months, did an extensive update on yesterday’s broadcast.

Should we all be constructing fallout shelters and stockpiling food and water?   Should we be shipping our children to South America until the crisis ends?   I have no idea, but neither does anybody else, including the nuclear experts.   They know that the crisis is more serious than Chernobyl.   The world has never experienced a “china syndrome” event, and there is no way to calculate the potential outcome.   One nuclear physicist who posts regularly at suggests that another explosion is unlikely given the current status, but warns that reactor 4 is in danger of collapsing on itself from even a minor earthquake or aftershock.   A collapse would negatively alter the scenario and could cause another major release of radioactive particles into the jet stream.   Chronic low-level radiation produces a myriad of diseases in animals and humans, and even the IAEA recently admitted that no level of radiation is safe, as radiation is the prime cause of cancers.   In any event, radiation exposure from a cross-country flight is in an entirely different category from a “hot particle” that would become an internal emitter once inhaled or ingested.   Of the isotopes released in nuclear accidents, the most dangerous are plutonium, strontium 90, which attacks bone tissue, iodine 131 which attacks the thyroid gland, and cesium 137 which attacks soft tissue, including the liver, kidneys and lungs.   Of these plutonium is the most lethal — 1/10,000th of a micron will kill a human.   Fukushima’s reactor number 3 illegally used MOX fuel, which is a mixture of uranium, depleted uranium, and plutonium. (The MOX fuel was sold to Japan by the United States during the Reagan administration).

The Norwegian Institute (NILU), a Scandinavian organization that measures air quality, akin to our EPA, had, for the first six weeks following the explosions, issued forecast maps for the northern hemisphere which tracked fallout clouds containing radioactive iodine, cesium and xenon, a gas.   Those maps were disturbing to all who saw them, as they showed North America literally blanketed in radioactive fallout at levels that vastly exceeded normal background radiation.

The EPA announced in early May that it would cease testing air, rainwater, tap water and milk, as iodine 131 levels, the isotope with the shortest half-life, had fallen to normal atmospheric levels (EPA test results here).   It has been reported at several websites that both NILU and the EPA were pressured to discontinue testing — or at least to discontinue publication of the test results.   The “pressure” has been variously attributed to the U.S. government, the Japanese government and the United Nations, although I have seen no hard evidence to substantiate any of those claims.   NILU began to publish more recent and updated historical maps in an alternate hidden file it code-named Zardoz, after the 1970’s sci-fi film about a post-apocalyptic future.   The previously hidden maps, showing emergency-level fallout contamination across North America, were subsequently re-published by two 20-something bloggers, here (scroll down the page) and here.   The Nuclear Engineering Dept at U.C. Berkeley has continued to test rain water, tap water, raw and commercially made milk, topsoil and an assortment of vegetables.   While radiation contamination has dropped significantly since the explosions of March 11, recent tests show new highs in contamination levels of topsoil and milk for cesium 137 and cesium 134.   Since only UCB is publishing test results, we cannot know for certain what levels persist in other areas of the country. In early April, the government of France advised that pregnant women and young children avoid milk, soft cheeses and leafy vegetables.   No such missive came from the U.S. government – and Western Europe has been receiving only 5% of the fallout that has blanketed North America. Last week Food, the website for the U.S. food and beverage industry, published a very informative article entitled “Fukushima in Our Food,” a good overview of contamination that has been recorded in North America since March 11th . Greenpeace, which conducted tests on marine life outside of Japan’s 12 mile limit last month, found levels of contamination in fish and seaweed to be above legal limits.

Yesterday Counterpunch published an article by two doctors on the spike in infant deaths in the U.S. since the explosions at Fukushima, a spike which mimics infant deaths in Europe following the Chernobyl disaster.   In North America the contamination comes largely in rainwater, which will, in turn, affect tap water, topsoil, vegetables, meat and dairy products over time.   The most vulnerable populations are pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant, infants and young children, the elderly and any person suffering from an immune system-compromising illness, such as AIDS.   The most logical preventative measures Americans can and should take are these: Avoid going out in the rain and always carry an umbrella, avoid fresh dairy products, wash all produce, increase intake of potent antioxidants, such as CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid, and buy a reverse osmosis water filtration system for your home or at least for your kitchen faucet.   If you want to be prepared for a possible emergency down the road, also look into N95 face masks, which are widely available, HEPA air filters, and stockpile at least a few weeks of canned and dried food and filtered or spring water sufficient for your household.   (Well water and spring water are safe as they are filtered by the clay in the soil.)   Consult the links below for methods of protection from and detoxification of radio isotopes.   (These methods are also valuable to protect against radiation exposure from x-rays and CT scans).

Resources for news on Fukushima and results of testing :


Fairewinds, Arnie Gundersen

EPA test results

UC Berkeley Dept of Nuclear Engineering test results air and water monitoring team

American Nuclear Society twitter page!/ans_org

NILU historical maps

NILU Zardoz file;O=D

Radiation network. Live radiation ground level readings from citizens with dosimeters. Readings over 100 are alert level; over 50 cause for some concern. (Fuel fleas or hot particles are too small to register on a dosimeter and will not show up in these readings)

Information on supplements that prevent absorption of isotopes and remove contaminants from the body :

Chevron Annual Shareholders Meeting 2011

Chevron World Headquarters
San Ramon, CA
May 25, 2011

With $20 billion in profits for 2010, and in the face of rising gas prices contributing to crippling worldwide inflation, oil giant Chevron met with opposition Wednesday as activists from across the globe converged at their world headquarters to give shareholders and executives a reality check about the ‘True Cost of Chevron’.

Issues ranged from the massive contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon to human rights abuse in Burma and elsewhere. They have already been found guilty in Ecuadorian Court of having caused pollution in the Amazon at a devastating level, but Chevron’s lawyers continue to appeal and refuse to take responsibility for their devastating environmental policies. As one Chevron executive states, “It sure doesn’t look good, Chevron vs. the Amazon villages”.  

Earlier this week, advocates from the Rainforest Action Network in Northern California unfurled a 50’ banner on the lower deck of the Richmond Bridge blasting Chevron for it’s toxic legacy in the Amazon.

Representatives from Ecuador, Angola, Nigeria, Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines, The Tar Sands region of Canada, Alaska, the Kimberly Region of Australia, Burma, and locals from Richmond, CA gathered to let Chevron shareholders hear about the true cost of maintaining our addiction to Chevron’s oil.  The folks from the Turtle Island Restoration Network were even there to represent the oceans and it’s creatures who cannot speak for themselves.

After being banned from last year’s meeting in Houston, 22 speakers were at last able to address shareholders from the podium. It was heartbreaking to hear stories of entire families lost to cancer, to see the tears and suffering first hand. But Chevron has not yet agreed to pay the fines in Ecuador, and it continues to make plans to expand its oil ventures to other ecologically and culturally delicate areas. 

These activists will not back down until their voices are heard and their grievances addressed.  As Antonia Juhasz from The Global Network states, “we will continue to work to fundamentally transform and restrict the way Chevron does business until we no longer need it’s operations at all.” 

For me, having spent most of this past year focused on the mess that we have created in the Gulf of Mexico, today was a huge wakeup call. I saw stark evidence of worldwide human rights violations, ‘pollute and run’ tactics, and multiple levels of environmental devastation far beyond what I previously knew about.  If you’d like to learn more about the havoc that Chevron has brought to the four corners of the globe, follow the links below. 

Participating Organizations

Amazon Watch

Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Burma America Democratic Alliance

Justice in Nigeria Now


Rainforest Action Network

Sea Turtle Restoration Project

The Global Exchange

The True Cost of Chevron

Tsunami Rolls Into California ~ All the Way from Japan

March 11th, 2011

Waking up on Friday morning was a strange experience. I’d been up til 2:30 glued to MSNBC watching the shocking live coverage of the earthquake and inundation in Northeast Japan. And a tsunami was moving East towards Hawaii and California. First I opened up Google Earth and confirmed my house’s altitude (about 80′ above sea level).

Watched as they issued evacuation orders for all of the Hawaiian Islands. Set the alarm for 5 AM to check on Hawaii. Woke up at 7:30. This month, I’m working at sea level. Drat. It was disconcerting to turn on the TV and hear it’s blaring warning tone with a red stripe along the bottom of the screen – a tsunami warning for the entire San Francisco Bay coastline. And when my phone rang with a recorded warning from my county, I took a deep breath.

They anticipated the wave to be 1-3′ high, and it would be hitting a low tide, which would make the net height even less than a normal high tide. I got in the car and headed over to Marin. Stuck in traffic on the bridge, I thought, hmmm, maybe not the best place to be when the tsunami hits.

Crossing the Pacific in only about 11 hours, the waves that piled into San Francisco Bay paled in comparison to the mega tsunami that hit Japan’s East Coast. From the second floor of KKMI’s Sausalito boatyard, Ken Keefe and I watched as the tsunami rolled down Richardson Bay. It was frightening in that one couldn’t know just how high the water would rise.

Thanks to Audubon California for posting this video of the tsunami entering Richardson Bay. I was on the second floor of one of the buildings directly across the harbor.

An absolutely amazing view of the second set of waves taken from Golden Gate Fields – a racetrack straight inshore from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Video featuring the Derek M. Baylis (sailboat to the left) & showing the unpredictable currents caused by the incoming waves.

Captain Richard Gillette of the sailing vessel Pegasus describes the action in the Berkeley Marina during the event. Richard’s videos follow:

“That Tsunami traveled all the way across the Pacific and arrived in San Francisco around 8:08 am this morning. The first surge was not so bad, but the later ones were quite powerful. There were in excess of 25 knot currents inside the Berkeley Marina. Several docks were broken and several pilings snapped in half and others just leaned over. The end tie dock at D dock broke in half. A piling on O dock snapped and fell on a boat causing slight damage. Several fingers on O dock were also damaged as well as docks at Berkeley Marine Center. When I heard that we were getting damage, I got in my dinghy and went to help. I knew that the Marina was down to one rescue boat and could use the help. I was right. We used my dinghy to help move broken docks, move boats and secure floating items. At one point the current was so strong we could barely make way.”

The worst hit areas were Santa Cruz Harbor to our South and Crescent City Harbor up North. These harbors are directly on the Pacific Ocean, rendering them far more at the whim of what Mother Ocean doles out.

Boats sunk, damaged in Santa Cruz. ‘Scary, a wake up call’, says one resident.

And finally from Crescent City near the Oregon Border, where the damage was even worse.