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Appeals court refuses to block California's shark fin ban

Appeals court refuses to block California's shark fin ban
Shark fins at a store in Chinatown in San Francisco. (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court refused Tuesday to block a state law that bars possession, sale and distribution of shark fins,  which are considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals let stand a decision by a district judge refusing to issue a preliminary injunction against the ban, which became effective in January.

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San Francisco's Chinatown Neighborhood Assn. and Asian Americans for Political Advancement  challenged the law on the grounds that it discriminated against Chinese Americans and hurt commerce.

"Chinatown presented no persuasive evidence indicating that the California Legislature's real intent was to discriminate against Chinese Americans rather than to accomplish the law's stated humanitarian, conservationist and health goals," the 9th Circuit wrote in a non-precedent-setting ruling.

California banned the taking of shark fins because fishermen often slice them off live sharks and then dump the sharks back into the water to die. State lawmakers also found that the practice  was threatening shark populations and that the fins often contain high amounts of mercury, a health hazard.

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