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Washington's New Shark Fin Ban Impacts Cultural Traditions

Hansi Lo Wang

Governor Chris Gregoire signed into law on Thursday a bill that bans selling or serving shark fins in the state. Washington joins Hawaii as the only states so far that have officially banned shark fins. The law goes into effect in Washington in October. As KUOW's Hansi Lo Wang reports, the ban's impact will mostly be felt in local Asian–American communities.


Shark fin is considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures. It's often served in a clear soup broth during wedding banquets and other celebrations.

In Seattle's International District, news about the ban has some merchants worried about what to do with their current stock of dried shark fins.

There are exceptions to the ban. Shark fins that are legally acquired before the new law goes into effect in October can still be sold in stores and served in restaurants. But storeowner Zhang Pu isn't taking any chances. He's already stopped selling shark fins at his International District store.

Zhang says the shark fin ban will definitely have an impact on the Chinese community.

Zhang (Wang translates): "It's a custom to eat shark fin whenever there's a special occasion. It's a way of showing respect to your guests and to yourself."

I ask him whether his customers are disappointed when they find out they can't buy shark fins at his store anymore.

Zhang (Wang translates): "Well, there's nothing you can do about it. If the law says we can't sell it, we can't challenge the government."

Zhang says Washington's new shark fin ban means cultural traditions will have to change within the local Chinese community. And for him, it means he'll just have to find other delicacies to sell.

For KUOW News, I'm Hansi Lo Wang.

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