Veteran city councillor Harold Steves has come up with an inventive plan to solve the shark fin debate in Richmond and B.C.
During a meeting where city council all but accepted the fact it couldn’t impose a ban on the sale of shark fin products, Steves — despite acknowledging shark fins are federally regulated — suggested a provincial ban on the importation of fins from outside of B.C.
He said there’s an abundance of dog sharks in provincial waters, especially around the Queen Charlotte Islands, that could be harvested in a controlled manner to serve the local shark fin market.
“This could be a compromise, as there’s not enough of a market right now for dog sharks,” said Steves.
“The sharks in B.C. are like the rabbit population in Richmond, they’re out of control.”
Steves said the likes of the BC Asian Restaurant Café Owners Association, which threatened to take legal action against any ban, could easily be requested to use the local product only.
“This could guarantee that (shark fin) soup was made with a B.C. product,” he added.
“I think we should take this step and we have an opportunity here to open up a new market.”
A report written by senior city staff advised council Monday that any regulation of the controversial product should be done federally and not at a municipal level.
Shark fins are prevalent in B.C.’s Chinese community, as many believe it carries powerful health benefits and the very expensive soup made from it displays, in the same circles, prosperity and wealth.
According to the report, there are “significant challenges” linked to enforcing a bylaw, such as no authority to seize products and no resources to identify the product’s origin.
Also, Vancouver and Burnaby, which were considering a ban, have now softened their approaches or backed down altogether.
And with an Ontario Superior Court ruling that Toronto’s shark fin bylaw was outside its jurisdiction, a ban in Richmond was always going to be difficult.
Instead, the city could join forces with the BC Asian Restaurant Café Owners Association to publish a brochure on consumer awareness on the issue.
The city was first asked last summer by the Vancouver Animal Defense League to consider banning the sale of shark fins, due to the drastic decline in certain species around the globe because of the illegal and cruel act of finning.
In particular, the league targeted the Chinese restaurant community in Richmond, where shark fin soup is still on some menus.
New Westminster NDP MP Fin Donnelly is trying to push anti-shark finning legislation through the House of Commons, with a vote expected at the end of this month.
However, it’s not expected to pass, with many Conservative MPs, including Richmond’s Alice Wong, having already spoken out in favour of the status quo.