The City of Richmond is investigating the possibility of banning shark fin products.
The probe began after a delegation of animal rights protestors, led by Anthony Marr of the Vancouver Animal Defense League, appealed to city council to enact a ban on the fins in Richmond.
Councillors agreed to allow city staff to look into the matter, specifically asking them to find out what other cities have done.
It was noted that there’s no point in Richmond introducing a ban if people can simply go to a neighbouring city to find the product.
According to Marr, up to 50 of the world’s 307 shark species are endangered due to shark finning; fins from which are used for soup and health products in the Chinese communities where it traditionally represents wealth and wellness.
Richmond is seen as a key component to the ban movement, with more than half the city’s population being of Chinese descent.
Staff have been given until the end of the year to return to council with a full report on what a ban might look like in the city.
“Their reaction was favourable,” said Marr, who’d organized a small protest of about 20 people outside of city hall before the meeting.
“Lots of the city councillors were nodding their heads when I was talking and they asked a lot of intelligent questions, so I’m quite hopeful.
“One of them asked what would stop someone going to Vancouver to get their shark fin soup if it was banned in Richmond? It’s a good question, but the logical solution would be to have a simultaneous ban in both cities.”
Marr said he did contact the City of Vancouver about making a presentation, but hasn’t heard anything back yet.
“I think they’re waiting to see the reaction in Richmond first,” Marr added.
“I will be contacting them again, though. Richmond has a big role to play here.”
Toronto is about to roll into force a ban on the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin products from Sept. 1, with a hefty set of fines for violators, starting at $5,000 for a first offence going up to $100,000.
Six more Ontario municipalities have also agreed to bans and closer to homer, Coquitlam, Port Moody and the City of North Vancouver have prohibited possession and use of the fins.
“Imagine if aliens abducted you, cut off your limbs, and then dumped you back on the road,” said Marr.
“That is basically what we’re doing to the sharks by cutting off their fins and dumping them back into the sea.”
Marr added that it’s impossible for people who eat shark fin soup to know whether or not they’re eating one of the endangered species.
Other groups, including Shark Truth, prefer a softer approach of educating the Chinese community on the threat to the species and claim, due to a drop in shark fin soup consumption, its view is being taken on board by their target audience.