“A cruel and ecologically unsound harvest (that is) tantamount to an alien abducting you, cutting off your limbs and dumping you back into a parking lot.”
That’s how Anthony Marr from the Vancouver Animal Defense League described the process of shark finning to Langley City Council on Sept. 17.
Marr appeared before council at its regular meeting, urging them to follow the lead of a number of Lower Mainland municipalities, including nearby Maple Ridge, which have, or are in the process of enacting bylaws to prohibit the sale of shark fins within municipal boundaries.
The type of business affected by such a law would largely be Chinese restaurants, which frequently offer shark fin soup on their banquet menus, explained Marr.
Shark fin soup is considered a status symbol because of the high price the fins demand — $700 to $800 per pound — he explained. It’s the same reason that many breeds of sharks are in danger of being fished to extinction — because there is a huge profit to be made.
“They’re not nutritious, they’re not delicious,” Marr said.
The only quality the fins add to food is texture — which is similar to vermicelli, he explained.
“I would suggest if you like that, eat vermicelli.”
Marr, a Chinese Canadian, was joined by about 20 people who held a protest outside City Hall prior to Monday’s meeting.
He told council that members of the group had done a bit of reconnaissance work in the two Langleys and found “two or three” restaurants in each municipality with shark fin on their menus.
Asked why he is approaching municipalities with what is essentially a federal issue (fisheries) Marr explained that things happen more quickly at a municipal level than they do at a provincial or federal level.
“The federal government works very slowly and sharks are being killed at (a rate of) up to 100 million per year.
“A municipal ban is the fastest way — the City has the power to enforce it by revoking a business licence.”
And time, he said, is something the animals don’t have, because sharks are slow to reproduce, giving birth to only two or three young every two or three years.
Of the 450 species of sharks, one third are endangered or threatened, but there is no way to determine from which species of shark a fin has come, short of a DNA sample.
Councillor Gayle Martin told Marr she wasn’t aware of any Chinese restaurants with banquet halls inside City boundaries.
“I only care if it’s happening in Langley City,” she said.
Several weeks earlier, Councillor Rosemary Wallace had asked staff to look into the implications of a shark fin ban, saying it is a global responsibility, not just a municipal one.
City staff will return with a report.