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City ponders shark fin ban

The City of Langley may be the next Lower Mainland municipality to dive into the shark fin debate.

On July 9, night, Councillor Rosemary Wallace made a motion to ban the possession, trade, sale or distribution of shark fins in the City unless it is for bona fide educational purposes.

Asked whether she knew of any place in the City where shark fin is sold or served, Wallace replied that she’d heard, anecdotally, that there is one business that trades in the Asian delicacy, although she was unsure whether it is in the City or the Township.

However, she said, that shouldn’t stop the City from taking a stand on the issue.

“This should be a global responsibility, even if there is only one place in Langley,” said Wallace.

“I agree with the intention of the bylaw,” said Councillor Gayle Martin.

“But how do you enforce it? And what’s the penalty, a slap on the wrist?”

“Is this a big problem in Langley and what are we going to do about it if we enact a bylaw?

“I don’t even know where you get it. Is it on the menu or (sold) under the table?” wondered Martin.

If adopted, the rule could become part of the City’s building licensing bylaw, said CAO Francis Cheung.

“We can remove their business licence if we find they are serving shark fin.”

“I’m a little concerned there might be a cultural bias we’re not being informed of,” said Councillor Dave Hall.

“We’ve seen one side of the argument.”

It would be “no small feat” for staff to find out how big a problem the sale of shark fins is in Langley, said Mayor Peter Fassbender, who suggested the item be tabled while the City checked with other communities.

The sale of shark fin products has reportedly already been banned in Port Moody and Coquitlam and on Monday night, Richmond City Council debated a similar bylaw.

The reason finning happens is that it is much more profitable to harvest only the fins of the sharks which take up less space on a fishing vessel.

According to the Humane Society, the act of finning means that rather than kill the animal, its fins are sliced off and the living shark is dumped back into the water to either bleed to death or possibly become prey for other sharks.

From an ecological viewpoint, it means that many more sharks are killed each year than would be if fishermen were required to return to port with entire sharks before removing their fins. As a result, says the Humane Society, sharks are being fished in unsustainable volumes.

The motion was tabled while City staff gather more information.

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