Fishing boats scour the oceans for sharks, which, when caught, have their fins removed, and the de-finned animals are then tossed back into the ocean to die.
Restaurateurs and caterers will charge up to $100 per bowl for shark fin soup, making it a status symbol for those who can afford to consume it or feed it to their guests.
“If you kill them off at this rate, there's no way they can recover. They will crash,” said Anthony Marr, of the Vancouver Animal Defence League.
Marr was to address Richmond council Monday night to encourage politicians to ban the sale, import and serving of shark fin, as the B.C. cities of Coquitlam and Port Moody have done, along with Toronto and six other Ontario cities.
But it's politically tricky for city council to wade into what people can or can't eat, especially in a city with a huge Chinese population
“I don't think [a ban] is a very good idea,” said David Chung, owner of the Jade Seafood Restaurant and a spokesman for the Asian Restaurant & Cafe Owners Association.
Sales down, restaurateur says
Chung said the global campaigns against shark fin consumption are already working.
“Our sales of shark fin have come down anyway and I think 20 per cent of our banquet business has stopped ordering shark fin soup,” he said.
Chung said he thinks that trend will continue with younger Chinese diners who won't order shark fin.
Chung believes a better way to protect sharks is to crack down on the illegal finners.
For Marr, something else is at stake — he wants to protect the reputation of the Chinese community.
He cites the popularity of rhinoceros horns among many Chinese as a trend that has hurt the community’s image.
“Extinction is forever,” Marr said.