Alene Tchekmedyian

Residents rally for shark rescue [VIDEO]

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Around 80 Los Angeles County residents – toddlers, teens and adults alike – gathered at the Manhattan Beach pier on Saturday with blow horns, banners and shark fin visors to rally in support of a bill, AB 376, that would ban the sale, possession, trade and distribution of shark fins in California.

“Hey hey, ho ho, shark finning has got to go!” the crowd chanted on the sand, clad in shark paraphernalia and posters created at the crafts booth of the event, which was hosted by environmental organizations, including Heal the Bay and Grades of Green and local supporters like Baja Sharkeez.

“Do you want to color a petition to send to your state senator?” asked a Heal the Bay member to an energetic boy wearing a bright blue shark t-shirt.

“Yeah!” he bursts.

Toddlers colored in shark drawings to send to state assembly members and senators, and the organizers handed out shark pencil tops, stuffed animals, buttons and bracelets as rally-goers discussed the issue among blow-up sharks. Scientists estimate that 26 to 73 million sharks are killed annually worldwide for their fins, according to a 2006 report.

The bill was heard on Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, but was suspended for 10 days for further discussion. The bill must be approved by this nine-member committee to be sent to the Senate floor.

Senator Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, has maintained that he is against the bill, noting that the bill discriminates against Chinese-Americans who produce and eat shark fin soup, a cultural delicacy.

Some gathered on Saturday to send a message to Lieu. David Rutan, 20-year Manhattan Beach resident, held a sign that read, “Ted, don’t be a Lieu-ser ban shark fins!!”

Lieu has said the bill should either ensure that fins used come from sharks that are already being used, or it should ban shark sales entirely.

Rutan doesn’t think that’s a realistic goal. “Shark fins are very expensive, and where there’s money, there are usually people who will skirt the rules,” he said, adding, “there will be an illegal trade of shark fins in California.”

Devon Slack, a sixth-grader from Culver City and an aspiring veterinarian, attended the event dressed as the ecosystem. Her blue gymnastics leotard was the water, her beige pleated skirt represented the sand and her green knit vest was the kelp in the ocean. She attached hand-drawn paper sharks to her green beanie, and held up a sign that read, “We saved Nemo, now let’s save Bruce.” Bruce is the shark character from the film, “Finding Nemo.”

“Sharks scare me, but I still think they have a right to live,” Slack said, also noting that slicing shark fins and throwing them in the ocean is not only inhumane, but also toxic to sea life. “It messes up the balance that Mother Nature set for us,” she said.

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