No soup for you! Canada may ban shark fin imports

Considered a delicacy in Asia, shark-fin soup means death for millions of sharks worldwide.

Shark fin soup in Canada could soon be a thing of the past. Members of the New Democrat party are calling for a national ban on the importation of shark fins and many cities – most recently Toronto – are already banning their sale. Opposition is coming, predictably, from restaurateurs who prepare the delicacy from dried fins severed from various species of sharks. It is estimated that 70 million sharks are killed each year by fishermen world wide as bypath or for the Asian soup market.  Canadian conservationists are also calling for a ban on shark fins.

Dried shark can cost up to $300, motivating the practice of “finning,” in which fishermen strip sharks of their fins and throw back the less valuable and often still-living body to drown. The liver of some species is also used to produce vitamin supplements. Even while finning is illegal in the U.S. and Canada, according to conservationists it is impossible to know which imported shark fins are illegally obtained. Canadian New Democrats are scheduled to introduce legislation this month to ban all importation of shark fins. There is a ban on shark fin sales, consumption, and possession in Toronto – Canada’s largest importer of shark fin products, according to WildAid. Toronto joins Mississauga, Brantford, and Oakville, as well three U.S. states, in banning shark fins. Critics, including Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, say city councils don’t have legal power to enforce such bans. 

The Toronto Chinese Business Association also criticized the fine of up to $100,000, noting that it is more severe than possessing illegal narcotics. Environmentalists dressed as sharks clashed with members of the Chinese-Canadian community in Toronto over the soup issue. A bowl of shark-fin soup can cost $17 dollars in a Toronto restaurant, and restaurateurs will make due if shark fins are no longer available. A Toronto city council member, Doug Ford, claims that a ban on shark-fin soup would interfere with Chinese culture.

The issue of illegal fishing of sharks was piqued by a discovery in October. Two Latin American countries clashed over devastation that occurred at the island of Malpelo, which is governed by Colombia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, about 400 miles from Panama, Malpelo was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2006. The twenty-mile area around the island is a declared non-fishing zone. Known as the ‘Mount Everest’ for those seeking sights of large pelagic sharks, the island is little more than a large uninhabited rock.

Russian divers visiting the island discovered more than 2,000 sharks of various species, including hammerhead, whale shark, baitball, silky, and others mutilated and missing fins.  The Colombian Navy dispatched a cutter once the alarm was raised, but too late to prevent the butchery.

It is believed that Costa Rican fishermen are responsible for the illegal fishing. Colombia’s minister for environmental affairs, Frank Pearl, is demanding cooperation on the part of Japan and other Asian nations were shark-fin soup is considered a delicacy. It is surmised that the fins stripped from the sharks at Malpelo island were shipped to markets in Asia. Costa Rican authorities say that they will cooperate with Colombia to find the culprits.
 



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under canada, china, fishing, environment, ecology, diving, food, dining, North America

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