'Legal' sharks OK, says MP Alice Wong

Alice Wong samples some shark fin soup Thursday in Richmond. -
Alice Wong samples some shark fin soup Thursday in Richmond.
— image credit:

Canadians should be able to eat sharks from "legal" fisheries, said Richmond MP Alice Wong in a statement Wednesday.

"I am of the view that shark which comes from a legal, humane and sustainable fishery is no different from any other imported food that Canadians may or may not choose to consume," said Wong.

The e-mailed statement comes two weeks after the Conservative MP appeared before Chinese news media at the Jade Seafood Restaurant to dine on some shark fin soup. Wong's Oct. 11 gesture of support for restaurateurs who wish to continue serving the Chinese delicacy caused a stir among those calling for a ban on fins.

In her statement, Wong also reiterated that the federal government "condemns the reprehensible practice of shark 'finning,' which has been banned in Canada since 1994."

But animal activists—along with NDP MP Fin Donnelly who is calling for a ban on shark fin imports—say it's almost impossible to determine the origin of a shark fin when it arrives in Canada.

Anthony Marr of the Vancouver Animal Defense League said there is a "high probability" the shark fin in the soup Wong ate came from an endangered species.

Marr referenced a recent American study that tested DNA in shark fin soup in 14 U.S. cities. Scientists could identify the presence of shark in just 32 of 51 bowls, and of those, four of five bowls were made with species they identified as endangered, threatened or vulnerable.

"She thinks that she is protecting the Chinese culture and tradition and rights. But I say, as a Chinese-Canadian, that she's in the process of ruining the Chinese reputation," said Marr, who has challenged Wong to a public debate on the issue.

"If we continue just a little bit further driving one or two of these species to extinction, the Chinese reputation will be forever mud, and I will hold her personally responsible for it."

Earlier this year Marr convinced Richmond city council to consider a municipal ban on shark fins. City staff are expected to deliver a report to civic politicians before year's end.

Opinions differ on how endangered sharks are. Just three shark species are facing extinction according to the so-called CITES international agreement. The conservation group Oceana, however, suggests 50 of 307 species are vulnerable or endangered.

Activists suggest 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins.

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