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Restaurateur rejects shark fin ban

Shark fin soup is a delicacy symbolizing wealth and health, and traditionally served at Chinese wedding banquets, but the practice of harvesting fins is widely viewed as inhumane. Demand is also putting the animals at risk of extinction. -
Shark fin soup is a delicacy symbolizing wealth and health, and traditionally served at Chinese wedding banquets, but the practice of harvesting fins is widely viewed as inhumane. Demand is also putting the animals at risk of extinction.
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A possible shark fin ban in Richmond has the stomachs of some local restaurant owners churning.

David Chung, owner of The Jade Seafood Restaurant on Alexandra Road, vows to put up a fight if city council follows Toronto’s lead of banning the sale and consumption of the Chinese delicacy used in soup.

“Shark fin soup is a tradition that we don’t want to break. It’s something we treasure,” said Chung in an interview with The Richmond Review.

The Jade offers four types of shark fin soup on its dinner menu, ranging from $24 to $63, and it’s a popular choice on banquet menus. But elected officials are now mulling a ban on shark fins, following an activist’s plea at city hall Monday.

The B.C. Asian Restaurant and Cafe Owners Association, which represents nearly 100 restaurants in Richmond, Vancouver and Burnaby, met Wednesday and agreed a ban on shark fins wouldn’t hurt their bottom line, but would infringe on their rights, said Chung, who is the association’s president.

“Nobody likes the idea of banning this eating of shark fin because it’s our right to eat things like this.”

Proponents of a ban say shark finning is inhumane, with poachers catching their prey, cutting off the fins and throwing the sharks overboard. They also say the demand for fins is threatening many shark species with extinction.

But Chung believes only a small portion of harvesters treat the animals as activists claim, adding government shouldn’t focus on such a “little” issue.

“The reason for it is so minor and these activists make such a big deal out of it. It’s just totally unfair,” he said. “If the federal government decided we can import shark fin, we should be able to eat it.”

Chung said shark finning provides jobs for people in developing countries and balances the food system. As a top predator, if sharks are left unchecked, they’ll consume more and more fish, he said.

“If they’re not being hunted or they’re not being killed, a lot of things would change too. The way I see it, the Chinese people have become part of the food chain that keeps things in check.”

Toronto’s ban, on the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin products, goes into effect Sept. 1, imposing fines of $5,000 for a first offence, $25,000 for a second conviction and $100,000 for subsequent ones. Six other Ontario cities have also agreed to bans.

In Metro Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Moody and the City of North Vancouver have also banned possession and use of shark fins.

Activist Anthony Marr presented his case for a ban to Richmond council Monday. He hopes to also convince Burnaby and Vancouver to adopt a ban.

“It’s cruel. The analogy is if some aliens abducted you, cut off your four limbs and dumped you back onto the road. That’s what we do to the sharks, by cutting off their fins and dumping them back into the water,” Marr told The Review.

According to ocean conservation group Oceana, 50 of the 307 shark species in the world are vulnerable or endangered, and Marr said it’s impossible for shark fin consumers to know what poached products they’re buying.

Richmond council has asked staff to research the issue and deliver a report by year’s end.

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