The sale of shark fin may soon be banned in Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby as the three cities work together on a bylaw to have the Chinese delicacy removed from restaurant menus.
The move follows bans in several smaller communities and in Toronto, in response to a rapid drop in shark populations, believed to be caused by the high demand for expensive shark fin as a status symbol in Canada's Chinese community.
Commercial trade of shark fin has also proven controversial as fishing boats scour the oceans for sharks, slice off their fins and then toss them back into the ocean to die.
Vancouver City Coun. Kerry Jang says it's important the three cities put in a ban at the same time.
"We wanted to make sure that if we banned it in Vancouver, for example, then people just didn't go to Richmond, or if Richmond banned it, they would just come back to Vancouver,” Jang said.
Jang says city staff have already had informal discussions with Richmond and Burnaby. He will put forward a motion when council resumes on Sept. 18 to formalize previous discussions on a simultaneous ban.
But the Vancouver councillor admits that the Chinese community is split on a shark-fin ban.
“Some believe it's a tradition and should be allowed no matter what. As I say to them, foot-binding was a tradition in Chinese culture for a long time and my grandmother is sure glad that one ended."
Restaurants and caterers 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, particularly at weddings.
But animal activists warn that shark populations will not be able to recover if they continue to be killed at present rates.
David Chung, president of the B.C. Asian Restaurant and Cafe Association, strongly opposes a ban. He says there is no scientific data that shows shark fin soup is threatening endangered sharks.
"Endangered species are not the level of the municipal government,” Chung said.
“They should leave this to the federal government, which has ... scientific knowledge to back up their actions, instead of at this level where none of the councillors really knows too much about it."
Coun. Jang says if a ban is approved by all councils, it could take effect in about six months.
Put Great White Sharks On Endangered Species List
Sharks have been around for more than 400 million years, <a href="http://act.oceana.org/sign/l-shark-esa/?source=homepage feature" target="_hplink">yet great whites are now disappearing at an alarming rate.</a> According to <a href="http://oceana.org/en" target="_hplink">Oceana</a>, an ocean conservation organization, there may be only a few hundred left off the coast of California and Mexico. You can help by petitioning to get the great white shark listed under the Endangered Species Act <a href="http://act.oceana.org/sign/l-shark-esa/?source=homepage feature" target="_hplink">here.</a>
Protest Shark Fin Soup
<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-09/business/sns-rt-us-usa-shark-survivorsbre8780w2-20120809_1_shark-fin-shark-attack-krishna-thompson" target="_hplink">Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins</a>, a cruel practice that a group of shark attack survivors is determined to stop. After studying 32 shark fin soups across the country, they found that 81 percent contained fins from vulnerable, threatened or endangered shark species, according to Reuters. While the menu item is considered a delicacy, de-finnning a shark<a href="http://livinggreenmag.com/2012/08/09/mother-nature/what-is-shark-finning-infographic/" target="_hplink"> increases their chances of drowning or bleeding to death</a>, according to <em>Living Green Magazine</em>. Take the Humane Society's "no shark fin" pledge <a href="https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2837" target="_hplink">here. </a>
Join The Shark Week Facebook, Twitter Campaign
To make sure you make some loud and lasting noise on Twitter and Facebook, <a href="https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/239-sharks-in-danger-of-extinction" target="_hplink">join the Shark Week thunderclap</a>. This crowdspeaking platform will blast out each supporter's message about protecting sharks from extinction all at once, flash-mob style. Find out how you can get involved <a href="https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/239-sharks-in-danger-of-extinction" target="_hplink">here. </a>
Fall in love with the great white shark -- and your mission to save them -- all over again when you take a dip into some of their most intimate moments. You'll find out where they summer, mate and give birth (among other fascinating secrets!) when you watch the Discovery Channel's <a href="http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/shark-week/pictures/great-white-highway.html" target="_hplink">"Great White Highway"</a> on Thursday.
Support Shark Activists
Consider offering a hand, or some funds, to the activism groups that are doing the most good to keep sharks safe. <a href="http://www.sharksavers.org/en/home/" target="_hplink">Shark Savers</a> is committed to ending the practice of shark finning, improving the images of sharks and raising awareness about the threats they face. <a href="http://www.ifaw.org/unite " target="_hplink">The International Fund for Animal Warfare</a> works to save individual animals, animal populations and habitats around the world and the <a href="http://www.eia-international.org/" target="_hplink">Environmental Investigation Agency</a> fights environmental crime.