Councillors launch campaign for shark fin ban
Toronto councillors Glenn De Baeremaeker and Kristyn Wong-Tam launched a campaign Monday aimed at stopping the sale of shark fins in Toronto, calling for 10,000 signatures in support of their cause.
The councillors are part of a growing movement around the world drawing attention to what they say is a brutal slaughter of sharks, who are often thrown back into the ocean to die after their fins have been removed.
De Baeremaeker and Wong-Tam plan to ask city council to ban the possession, sale and consumption of shark fins, which are a Chinese delicacy.
A bowl of shark fin soup can cost as much as $100, and is traditionally served on special occasions such as Chinese New Year and weddings.
Wong-Tam said her family stopped eating shark fin soup about 10 years ago and encouraged other families to do the same.
"The practice of shark finning has everything to do with trolling the bottom of the oceans for the sharks," she said Monday at a City Hall press conference. "Their fins are literally hacked off and their entire body is thrown into the ocean where it sinks to the bottom… They are eaten alive by other fish and pollute the bottom of the ocean."
The practice of shark finning has been illegal in Canadian waters since 1993.
On Monday, De Baeremaeker and Wong-Tam were joined at City Hall by Rob Sinclair, the executive director of conservation group WildAid Canada, and documentary director Rob Stewart.
Stewart's 2007 film "Sharkwater" brought widespread attention to the practice and impact of shark finning and won several international awards. It was also listed in Canada's Top Ten at the Toronto International Film Festival the year it was released.
According to WildAid, up to 73 million sharks are killed each year. At that rate, the group estimates that some species of shark will be at the brink of extinction within the next 10 to 15 years.
The group says fishermen don't feel it's economical to keep the whole carcass, which is not worth nearly as much as the sought-after fins.
The idea of banning shark fins has gained support in several unlikely corners: basketball star Yao Ming has voiced his support for such bans, and last month the municipality of Brantford was the first in Canada to ban the sale of shark fins.
The councillors will present their motion to council on Tuesday, at which point it will likely be referred to committee for further study. They are hoping it will come to council for a vote by the fall.
With a report by CTV Toronto's Alicia Markson