Bylaws banning the selling, trading and distributing of shark fins in Abbotsford were passed at city council on Monday.
The issue arises from “finning,” the practice of cutting off a shark’s fin and releasing the live creature back into the ocean where it dies. Shark fins are most commonly used as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine.
The practice of shark finning is illegal in Canada, but the importation of the fins from other countries is allowed.
A city bylaw enforcement report had been received by council, outlining the selling of shark fins as a “noxious and offensive business.” The new laws amend the business license bylaw to ban their sale in Abbotsford.
Coun. Patricia Ross previously told council that obtaining shark fins is an “inhumane practice,” and the city must take measures to stop the distribution of shark fin products in the city.
Coun. Henry Braun was opposed to the bylaw and concerned that it is not within the city’s powers to enforce. He pointed out the City of Toronto’s bylaw banning shark-fin products was struck down by the Ontario Supreme Court.
“It’s a waste of time for council.”
Ross said the difference is that Toronto’s bylaw banned the consumption of shark fins, which is a considered a violation of individual rights. She said Abbotsford”s bylaw restricts the selling and distribution of shark fins within city limits.
Jay Teichroeb, general manager of economic development, said the city’s lawyers have reviewed the bylaw and confirmed it is within the municipality’s rights to impose a ban.
The city report recommended a resolution calling upon the federal government to ban the import of shark fin, and forward it to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Ross said she does not wish to name the businesses, but she knows of about four restaurants in Abbotsford that serve shark-fin soup.
“Sharks cannot speaks for themselves,” said Ross. “We have to step in.”