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Shark fin soup off Maple Ridge menu

Maple Ridge has joined the growing ban on serving shark fin soup in local eateries.

Council decided at its Tuesday meeting last week to support a staff recommendation banning the trade, sale or distribution of shark fins or shark-fin products in Maple Ridge.

The report said there would be little danger such a bylaw would be challenged and imposing it wouldn’t affect any restaurants here because staff couldn’t find any restaurants that sell the product.

By its unanimous vote, the district joins Port Moody, Nanaimo and Coquitlam in banning the food and is ahead of Burnaby, Richmond and Vancouver which are considering a joint response.

Bylaws director Liz Holitzki told council that neither of the latter three cities want to be the first to ban it because that would mean losing banquet business where shark fin soup is served, at up to $200 a bowl.

At the Sept. 10 meeting, Coun. Judy Dueck supported a ban but wanted to wait until the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention later this month, when two resolutions ask the provincial government to prohibit it.

North Van city’s resolution also asks the federal government to ban any imports of shark fins.

But Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said the province takes too long to act.

“At a minimum, we need to put this bylaw in place to say we are lending our voice to that.”

It could be an example of thinking globally and acting locally, and approving it now would help the UBCM resolutions move forward, added Coun. Bob Masse.

Masse said Hong Kong has banned it while the products are prohibited at Chinese state functions. Washington, California and Oregon have all banned shark fin products, he added.

Council heard, though, if it tells staff to prepare a bylaw banning shark fin product, it will be after the UBCM convention before it returns to council’s agenda, allowing input of any decisions made at the convention.

Couns. Mike Morden and Dueck were both concerned about treading into provincial jurisdiction. If council and staff work on such issues, it could affect council’s work plan.

“Because stuff like this takes away from other issues, so that’s my caution,” Dueck said.

But Coun. Al Hogarth supported a ban, saying the sooner the better.

One concern is that without a ban, Maple Ridge could attract the shark fin banquet business if the rest of Metro Vancouver has outlawed it.

Shark fins are obtained by catching sharks, cutting off their fins, then tossing them back into the ocean where they die by starvation or predation. According to Port Moody’s resolution, a third of all sharks species are threatened.

Currently, the practice of shark finning in Canada is illegal, but the use of shark fins is allowed.

According to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, 18 species of sharks have been listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Killing sharks also disrupts other sea life populations.

• Shark finning: http://www.seashepherd.org/sharks/shark-finning.html

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