Toronto moves closer to banning shark fins
Toronto city councillors have moved the city one step closer to banning the possession, sale or consumption of shark fin products, a controversial ingredient in a popular Chinese soup.
On Thursday, the licensing and standards committee voted in favour of the measure, but it has yet to be approved by city council.
The committee's recommendation comes a day after Mississauga outlawed the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins.
Commonly consumed in shark fin soup, the ingredient is considered a delicacy in the Chinese community and is readily available in the GTA. But it has come under intense international criticism in recent years as many of the world's shark species approach the brink of extinction.
"It's unquestionable that sharks are in trouble. It's unquestionable that they need our help and it's unquestionable that we need to act now," said Christopher Chin, of the Centre for Oceanic Awareness.
The act of shark-finning has been illegal in Canada since 1993. But shark fin products are not, and the soup is readily available in the GTA.
Members of Toronto's Chinese community have said that if a ban is eventually adopted by city council, they would like it to be framed as a global issue and not as a cultural one.
Last June, a pair of city councillors spearheaded a campaign to enact a similar ban in Toronto.
Councillors Glenn De Baeremaeker and Kristyn Wong-Tam condemned the consumption of shark fins, arguing it encourages "shark finning."
"Toronto is seen as a leader in Canada, and the way of Toronto usually goes the way of the country," Wong-Tam told reporters on Thursday.
The controversial harvest usually involves catching sharks for their fins rather than for their meat. In some cases the creatures are de-finned while they're still alive and are thrown back into the ocean.
The motion approved on Thursday recommends a fine of between $500 and $100,000 for violating the ban on shark fins, if it becomes a bylaw. City council is due to vote on the motion later this month.
While conservationists endorse a ban on shark fin products, some have voiced concern about potential negative impacts on local Chinese businesses.
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.
In June 2011, Brantford, Ont. became the first Canadian city to ban the sale of shark fin. Following their lead, Oakville, Ont. enacted a ban a month later.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Natalie Johnson