Shark fin ban passes third reading

City staff expected to provide council with options for increasing maximum penalties.

Nanaimo city council moved ahead Monday to ban shark fin soup or any derivative of shark fins by passing the third reading of a business licence amendment bylaw.

Shark fin soup is a traditional Chinese delicacy, often used at banquets or weddings to flaunt wealth. A bowl of soup can cost $100, while shark fins can fetch up to $800 per pound.

Because shark meat is almost worthless, sharks are often caught in a net, de-finned and then tossed back into the ocean by fishermen to meet a cruel and certain death.

The fin cartilage has virtually no nutrition benefits and offers little taste.

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said the city knows of only one business in Nanaimo offering the product, though that business has agreed to comply with the new bylaw.

“The issue in greater Vancouver might be bigger but for us I don’t think the issue is as severe,” said Ruttan.

The maximum fine currently under the bylaw is $2,000 in Nanaimo, though the city could seek cancellation of a business licence for perpetual offenders through the court system. City staff will be bringing a report forward to council on the potential of increasing penalties and the legal issues associated with increasing penalties.

Coun. Jim Kipp said he strongly supports the ban.

“I think education will pay off more than slamming somebody with a fine,” he said.

The bylaw still needs to pass final adoption.

Other B.C. municipalities that have chosen to ban shark fin products include Port Moody and Coquitlam, while Surrey, Burnaby, Langley and North Vancouver are considering it. Five U.S. states — Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California and Illinois – have also banned the product, as have eight Ontario municipalities including Toronto, which has imposed a maximum fine of $100,000.

According to the Vancouver Animal Defence League, an estimated 70 million to 100 million sharks are killed annually for their fins worldwide.