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New York to ban shark fin sales

ALBANY -- New York is banning trade in shark fins starting next summer in an effort to protect the marine predators.

The fins are used in soup popular in Chinese cuisine, and New York is home to one of the nation's largest Chinatowns. An estimated 73 million sharks are killed worldwide to meet the market demand, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who signed the law Friday.

So-called "finning" of sharks -- catching them, cutting off their fins and returning them to the water to die -- is already illegal in U.S. and New York coastal waters. New York also prohibits sport fishing for many shark species.

"Not only is the process inhumane, but it also affects the natural balance of the oceanic ecosystem," Cuomo said.

The law takes effect July 1. It accommodates some demand by allowing the sale of fins from two species of dogfish.

"It would be stronger without the exception, but it will protect the vast majority of sharks," said Patrick Kwan of the Humane Society of the United States.

Some restaurateurs in Manhattan's Chinatown said they have been phasing out shark fin soup since other states began banning the traditional delicacy.

"We don't use very much shark fin right now," said Tony Chen, manager of Grand Harmony Palace. "Not that many people ask for it." Chen said that's partly because the soup is so expensive -- at least $80 for a small bowl -- and partly because shark fin has been difficult to procure since California and other West Coast states banned it. -- AP

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