Calgary to ban shark fin

Shark fin products on display at an Asian market.



CALGARY - No shark fin soup for you.

City council will draft a bylaw that will ban possession, distribution and consumption of shark fin and any of its products in the city, following a 13-2 vote Monday.

Ald. Brian Pincott led the charge in banning shark fin, a move widely supported by the local Chinese community.

"I'm really encouraged by the strong support of council for doing this," Pincott told reporters after the vote.

The move was made in response to more than 70 million sharks harvested every year to fuel demand for the traditional delicacy.

Calgary activists have been speaking out against the questionable methods of harvesting sharks, and the impact of the practice on the ocean's ecology.

Several groups such as the Sien Lok Society of Calgary and restaurants and business owners lobbied city council to initiate the ban, which will officially take effect once a bylaw is drawn up in October.

Ingrid Kuenzel, a board member of Shark Fin Free Calgary, said she's ecstatic about council's decision.

"It's such a huge statement for Calgarians' voices to be heard and for the country to know that Calgarians care about the environment," she said.

"This is a huge move. I'm a proud Calgarian and I'm more proud than I've ever been today for this stance that we took."

Aldermen Jim Stevenson and Andre Chabot were the dissenting voices.

Stevenson said he's always very hesitant supporting a bylaw that's not enforceable or will be difficult to enforce.

"Putting in laws that we can't justify is a concern to me," he told council.

"I understand the federal government has banned the harvesting, but they have not yet banned importing -- apparently it's in a bill that's under consideration."

Pincott said shark fin is a legal product in Canada and there have been challenges in other cities where a ban exists.

Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy and traditionally served at Chinese weddings.

But Pincott said council was advised by bylaw boss Bill Bruce that the new rules will be enforceable and people will comply because Calgarians tend to follow regulations.

"As we've seen with the letters of support, I read one from a restaurant owner saying he wants to see this come in -- we're going to see people say ‘OK great, we're not doing this anymore,'" he said.

The publicity the issue could help lessen demand for the product, said Pincott.

Toronto and London, ON, already have bans in place.

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