08/15/2012 11:17 EDT | Updated 10/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Shark Fin Ban Considered In B.C. Cities

In this Feb. 14, 2011 file photo shows shark fins available for sale at $480 and $495 a pound at a store in Chinatown in San Francisco. Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he signed a bill banning the sale, trade and possession of shark fins to protect the world's dwindling shark population. Brown signed AB376 over objections that the fins are used in a soup considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
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.

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