Richmond holds off on shark fin ban

Shark fin soup. -
Shark fin soup.
— image credit:

A contentious decision whether to ban shark fin in Richmond won't come anytime soon, The Richmond Review has learned.

City staff have advised council that it should wait until a legal challenge—filed in Toronto by Fair and Responsible Governance Alliance against that city's ban—is settled.

In July, Anthony Marr of the Vancouver Animal Defense League asked Richmond council to ban shark fin, a Chinese delicacy used in soup. Civic politicians agreed to have staff study the issue, and report back by year's end.

In recent months, animal activists have battled with B.C. Asian Restaurant and Cafe Owners Association David Chung and Richmond MP Alice Wong. Both have rejected the idea of making shark fin illegal.

In September, Toronto's shark fin bylaw came into effect, banning the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin products. But a group from the city's Chinese Canadian community has sued the city, arguing that civic politicians have exceeded their authority.

The Ontario Court of Justice heard the case on Nov. 5, but a decision has yet to be made. Until then, the Fair and Responsible Governance Alliance group isn't commenting.

Coun. Bill McNulty said it's prudent for Richmond to wait for the outcome.

"I can't see us doing anything until the City of Toronto court decision is decided one way or the other," he said. "All we'd be doing is taking the taxpayer to a lawsuit that we do not need to be fighting."

Activists say finning—the practice of removing fins from a shark and discarding the rest of the fish—threatens one-third of all shark species with extinction and kills up to 75 million sharks each year.

Anthony Marr, meanwhile, called Richmond "cowardly for bowing down to a small minority that benefits from the trade."

Some politicians, like Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, have suggested that Richmond, Burnaby and Vancouver—the cities with the region's greatest numbers of Chinese restaurants—work together on a ban. Marr said Vancouver should now push ahead without Richmond.

"I would advise Vancouver to unilaterally do it and isolate Richmond as the only sore thumb sticking out in the entire Lower Mainland," said Marr. "They should die of shame."

Many Metro Vancouver municipalities have already approved bans, the most recent being the City of White Rock.

Richmond Coun. Chak Au, who favours education rather than a ban, said the city has to make many considerations before taking action, calling Richmond’s wait-and-see approach “reasonable.”

“If the court rules it’s not in the city’s jurasdiction to ban shark fin, it creates another situation,” he said. “I think it’s wise to wait for a little bit.”

Au said the case is straight-forward and he expects a decision soon.

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