Shark Fin Ban: Toronto Votes To Ban Controversial Delicacy

The Huffington Post Canada     First Posted: 10/25/2011 5:43 pm   Updated: 12/24/2011 4:12 am

The City of Toronto has banned the sale of shark fin products.

Passage of the legislation, initially proposed by Toronto city councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam, John Parker, and Glenn De Baeremaeker, marks a huge win for opponents of shark fin, including organizations like Shark Truth, a Vancouver-based non-profit that recruited nearly 10,000 people to join a campaign urging Toronto's city councillors to vote in favour of the city-wide shark fin ban. About 300 hundred people gathered outside Toronto City Hall Monday to show support for the ban.

Council voted 38 to four in favour of the ban Tuesday afternoon. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug Ford were among the overruled voters who did not support the ban.

"For a city the size and influence of Toronto to pass a shark fin bill is a historic moment for Canada,” Claudia Li, founder of Shark Truth, said in a release. "Councillors are setting an example of how we can protect sharks from the wasteful practice of finning," A vote has also passed to encourage the city to bring this issue to the province of Ontario.

Shark fin is routinely used to make shark fin soup -- a Chinese delicacy. The use of shark fin made international headlines earlier this year after its controversial "finning" techniques were blamed for the world's decline of shark population. Critics claim the harvesting process involves cutting the fin off the shark while still alive and throwing the definned shark back into the water.

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The sale of shark fin has become such an issue that restaurateurs have created imitation versions of the soup in Hong Kong .

Toronto now joins other Ontario cities like Oakville, Brantford and Mississauga in banning the use of shark fins.

Earlier this month, California passed a bill to ban shark fin trade in the state. Hawaii, Washington, Guam and Oregon have also banned the 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," said California Governor Jerry Brown in a statement.

Some celebrities have taken a stand against the sale of shark fins, including Bo Derek and January Jones. Retired NBA basketball player Yao Ming -- originally from China -- and British tycoon Richard Branson have both spoken out against shark fin consumption. LUSH cosmetics helped raise awareness by creating a "Shark Fin Soap."

But in Canadian cities like Toronto, which has one of the largest Chinese populations in Canada, there still seems to be a generational divide around shark fin.

The soup, which is custom at Chinese weddings, is said to be a status food for an older generation.

"For a lot of people in my generation, we really just do it for grandma and older aunts and uncles. So there’s some pressure there, when people get married, 'Oh, grandma will be disappointed if there’s no shark fin,'" Karen Sun, former executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto chapter, told the Globe.

Critics say the ban will send customers to other municipalities -- that a nationwide ban is what's needed.

In Toronto, if you're caught selling or using shark fin, the cost is steep: $5,000 fine for a first offence; a $25,000 fine for a second offence; and a $100,000 fine for all offences thereafter.

In eight months, California will also ban the sale of foie gras -- goose liver. Some argue there are other foods that should be banned first. These eight foods are among the hotly contested.

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