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Shark-fin ban takes giant step forward
August 14, 2012, Nanaimo BC - Nanaimo has taken a giant step forward in banning the sale of shark-fin soup in the city.
Last night (August 13), city council unanimously approved in principle a bylaw supporting the ban, following a presentation by animal-rights' campaigner Anthony Marr.
Marr was backed by a delegation of about 40 people, who had just attended an information session/support rally in nearby Diana Krall Plaza in downtown Nanaimo. Signatures in support of the ban were collected.
"Fins on sharks, not in soup," read one supporter's poster, which featured a colorful, playful-looking shark, which, except for its razor-like teeth, looked like the famous bottlenose dolphin Flipper.
Council members didn't mince words, after listenting intently to Marr.
"I am extremely opposed to this whole finning of sharks," said Mayor Ruttan. "It's an absolute travesty this is allowed. It's a pathetic and disgraceful thing to do. I will certainly be supporting the ban of shark fins."
The mayor set the tone for council members, who followed.
Councillor Diana Johnstone called the practice of finning sharks (often alive) and throwing the rest of their bodies back into the sea "absolutely inhumane."
Still another councillor called the practice of finning "disgusting and barbaric."
Only one local firm is known to have served shark-fin soup, and, then, only occasionally, a city official told council. Having learned of the proposed bylaw, it's believed the firm will stop selling the soup, he said.
While fines in Toronto, which passed a similar bylaw, range from $5,000 for a first offence to a reported $100,000, fines in Nanaimo would be "minimal" because the city is limited by provincial law, he said.
The "ultimate" action that Nanaimo could take is to strip a firm of its business licence, said the city official.
Nanaimo's bylaw would ban the trade, sale or distribution of shark fins "or their derivative."
Marr said over 100 million sharks are finned annually. While the meat fetches less than $1 a pound, the fins can net as nuch as $800. a pound and as much as $100. for a bowl of soup, typically served at banquets, he said.
"It is a status symbol because of the price," said Marr, of Asian descent, who is unpopular in those segments of the Chinese community, which oppose bans. "It is a flaunting of wealth."
He said shark-fin soup has "almost zero nutritional value."
Since at least one-third of the estimated 450 shark species are endangered, under international law, to which Canada is a signatory, shark finning is, by and large, illegal, he said.
Laws like the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species make it very clear that trade internationally in endangered species like many, if not most, sharks finned is illegal, said Marr.
He said any Canadian city allowing the sale of shark-fin soup is likely in violation of Canadian and international law.
In B.C, Port Moody and Coquitlam have shark-fin bans as do eight Ontario cities and five U.S. states, said Marr.
* "A growing number of well-respected Asian establishments no longer serve shark-fin soup, including the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Disneyland, the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in Hong Kong, the government of Malaysia and Taiwan's National Palace Museum," says Humane Society International (HSI).
High-profile dignitaries are also saying 'No' to the controversial soup, including current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who chose not to serve it at his inaugural banquet.
By Dana C. R. Wagg
* "Protecting sharks & marine ecosystems": www.hsi.org/sharkfin
* Attendance at Nanaimo city council and prior information session: 13 August 2012
* "Shark-fin ban gains momentum in Metro cities": Surrey North Delta Leader: 28 June 2012
* "Richmond considers shark-fin ban": Richmond Review: 10 July 2012
* "Restaurateur rejects shark-fin ban": IBID