Shark fin bill awaits vote

Civic politicians will soon learn if a shark fin ban will find traction on Parliament Hill, as a federal bill seeking to prohibit imports is set for a vote Monday.

NDP MP Fin Donnelly is seeking to win a majority of votes to approve second reading of Bill C-380. The proposed legislation is aimed at halting the practice of shark finning, which Donnelly described in the House as "horrific."

It was introduced as a private member's bill—bills that rarely become law—but that hasn't deterred the Vancouver Animal Defense League, which has now moved on from lobbying local governments.

"We're in the home stretch right now," said activist Anthony Marr, who urged Richmond council in July 2012 to ban shark fin. "We're doing a campaign of contacting all the MPs, both by e-mail and by phone."

Marr is concentrating on the government's Conservative MPs, saying he believes members of the NDP and Liberal parties are already in support.

It's not clear where Richmond's MPs stand. Neither Richmond MP Alice Wong nor Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynn Findlay were available for comment yesterday. But last year Wong came out in support of restaurateurs serving shark fin soup by slurping a bowl at The Jade Seafood Restaurant for Chinese media.

So far, Richmond council has remained silent on the controversial issue. City spokesperson Ted Townsend said staff are still in the midst of drafting a report, and no date has been set for when it will appear before city council.

Meanwhile civic politicians in Delta moved on the issue last week—one month after Marr made his pitch there. Delta council decided against a local ban, voting unanimously instead to ask senior governments to "take steps to prohibit the import, possession, sale and distribution of shark fin."

Staff in Delta couldn't find a single restaurant that served shark fin soup, and told council a bylaw banning shark fin could be challenged or even help create a black market.

"I don't see that shark fin soup is going to be something that's going to impact this community in any direct way," said Delta Coun. Robert Campbell last week. "I do not see that if it's banned in Richmond we're going to have a flood of restaurants open up in Delta that will be selling shark fin soup."

At least 10 B.C. municipalities have already moved to create some level of a ban. But the region's largest cities, Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby—along with Richmond—haven't crafted a resolution or bylaw.

Last fall, Toronto's bylaw banning the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin was struck down by an Ontario court for being outside the powers of the city. In a report to council, Delta's Sean McGill said the key difference between that bylaw and those adopted by local municipalities is Toronto moved beyond regulating businesses and "addressed the possession and consumption of shark fins from a health and environment perspective, which could have impacted people in the privacy of their own residences."

Activists say up to 73 million sharks each year are killed for their fins alone.

In December, the Vancouver Animal Defense League reported findings of its investigation of dried fins being sold in Richmond and Vancouver. It found 76 per cent were from species listed as endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Although scientists consider many species of sharks endangered or threatened, they are legal to sell in Canada. Only three sharks—listed by the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species—are restricted here, none of which were found in the investigation.

Shark fin bans

Coquitlam: Ban endorsed May 14, 2012

Port Moody: Bylaw adopted May 22, 2012

Abbotsford: Resolution to research ban Sept. 10, 2012

City of North Vancouver: Bylaw adopted Oct. 1, 2012

Nanaimo: Bylaw adopted Oct. 1, 2012

Maple Ridge: Bylaw adopted Nov. 13, 2012

Langley Township: Ban endorsed Oct. 22, 2012

Langley City: Resolution adopted Oct. 22, 2012

White Rock: Resolution adopted Oct. 29, 2012

New Westminster: Bylaw adopted Dec. 10, 2012

* Source: Corporation of Delta

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