For the ocean's top predator, California Gov. Jerry Brown's decision earlier this month to ban the sale, trade and possession of shark fins was a giant step in species conservation. The state, once the largest shark fin market outside of Asia, will now join Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Guam in the ban — effectively closing off Pacific ports in the U.S. to the barbaric trade.
"The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans," Brown wrote in a statement.
While celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Yao Ming, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton and Richard Branson all favored the legislation, one Hollywood icon in particular has been working for decades towards moments like this one.
"This is a big step in the right direction," Ted Danson told The Hollywood Reporter. "California is responsible for selling, trading and distributing large amounts of shark fins that come from all over the world. This legislation will help end that."
Danson, the latest big name to lead the original "CSI" television series, is a founding board member of the ocean conservation group Oceana. Since the early '80s he has been a leader in advocating for greater protection for marine species and habitat. California's decision to help curb the more than 73 million sharks killed each year for their fins is an encouraging sign of how we value the species, he says.
"We're finally starting to realize that sharks are worth more alive than dead," he said. "As the fight continues, we hope to secure additional protections for vulnerable shark species, reduce shark finning and reduce demand for shark fins through sales bans."
"But certainly there are still some underlying misconceptions," he added. "Many people continue to think of sharks as man-eating beasts. Sharks are enormously powerful and wild creatures, but you're more likely to be killed by your kitchen toaster than a shark!"
Danson also revealed the massive ground support behind Oceana's campaigns — and how the group was one of several instrumental in gaining backers for the bill's passage.
"Nearly 10,000 Oceana supporters from California signed on to letters of support for the bill, and Oceana’s policy team followed up by lobbying long and hard — and it worked," he said. "They always say that while the oceans are at a tipping point, there is something we can do about it."
To learn more about the role sharks play in the ecosystem, as well as the ways you can help support the species, visit Oceana's official site on the topic here.