Debate steamed up over whether Langley City and Township should join other municipalities in banning shark fin soup at local restaurants.
Langley City and Township debated the issues Sept. 17 during their regular council meetings.
Anthony Marr urged City council, in his capacity with the Vancouver Animal Defense League, to bring in a shark fin ban.
"I believe I speak for the majority of Chinese people both in Langley and in Canada," Marr said.
He said the soup is a status symbol and the fins have no taste, but the way the fins are obtained is cruel. Fins are often cut from live sharks which are then dumped back into the ocean to die.
He said a conservative estimate is that 30 million sharks are killed each year, but others suggest the number is greater than 100 million.
"There is a cruelty and morality issue Canadians have to deal with," Marr said.
He said there are those arguing to allow shark fin soup and who call opponents racist but allowing the harvest of sharks to continue will "make the Chinese reputation forever mud."
One third of the 450 shark species are endangered or threatened and an American DNA study found that about 65 per cent of shark fins served in soup were from endangered species, he said.
"We have identified two or three [restaurants] in each of the Township and City" that serve shark fin soup, Marr said.
Coun. Dave Hall noted that fisheries is a federal issue. Marr explained that all levels of government are being asked to do what they can to stop shark finning but the federal level is the slowest.
"There is nothing that can move faster than a municipal ban," Marr said.
He likened the ban to previous conservation efforts to make the public more aware about bear gallbladder, rhino horn, and other animal parts.
Hall wondered why such a popular product couldn't be farmed the way salmon is farmed. Marr explained that the rest of the shark has little value compared to the fins (70 cents per pound versus $700 per pound respectively) and farming isn't feasible.
Coun. Rosemary Wallace had recently asked council to consider a ban and council awaits a staff report on the issue.
Langley Township Councillor Charlie Fox got marginal support when he introduced his motion calling for a ban on shark fins "and related products" Sept. 17.
Fox noted that there is a restaurant in the Township that offers shark fin soup and that finning is "cruel and archaic."
Coun. Michelle Sparrow said Maple Ridge council passed a ban last Tuesday, adding, "It's not difficult."
Jurisdiction was the main concern at the council table.
Coun. David Davis echoed sentiments of several councillors when he said, "I don't think it's a municipal issue," but added, "I think I'll support [the banning motion] because I'm in the mood to save the sharks tonight."
Coun. Bob Long agreed finning was "cruel and should be addressed" but that the call for a ban should be "harmonized" with neighbouring municipalities.
"We may not even be legally able to do this," said Coun. Kim Richter.
Mayor Jack Froese added that the matter should be dealt with at a "higher level."
A motion to refer the matter to staff for study was roundly defeated, and a subsequent vote narrowly defeated the ban, 5-4, with Fox, Sparrow, Davis, and Richter on the losing side.
In B.C. North Van, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Nanaimo, Abbotsford, and Maple Ridge have banned it. Vancouver and Richmond have ban requests before them.
North Vancouver is asking for a shark fin soup ban resolution at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in late September. That is where a ban for all municipalities will be sought.
The head of the B.C. Asian Restaurant and Cafe Owners Association is vowing to fight back with a petition, protests, and possibly legal action.
David Chung said people should be able to eat what they want, and said the bans are "culturally insensitive."
Cathay Pacific Airlines has said it will not longer transport shark fins, and many Hong Kong restaurants are removing it from menus, due to public pressure.