City council voted in favour of a motion to ban shark fin within the city of Calgary on July 16.
Alderman Brian Pincott’s motion to create a law prohibiting the possession, distribution or consumption of shark fin, or shark fin products, passed by a vote of 13 to 2; greater support than Pincott expected.
“I was pretty sure it was going to pass. I didn’t think I was going to get 13 to 2 though,” he says.
Pincott says he has been working for several months with the non-profit group Shark Fin Free Calgary and the Sien Lok Society to get council to support a bylaw banning shark fins.
Shark fin soup is a prized menu item at Chinese banquets and weddings, but the practice of harvesting only the fins before dumping the live shark back in the water, compounded with over-fishing and evidence of high levels of mercury in the meat, has compelled activists around the world to push for bans on the product. Earlier this month the Chinese government announced it would prohibit serving shark fin at official dinners.
Ald. Pincott says the relevant bylaw, which is scheduled to come before council in October, may be difficult to enforce, but he expects people will voluntarily comply once they understand the issue. He also says he has received nothing but support for the motion from the Chinese community.
“I have not received any criticism,” says Pincott. “I have received many, many letters of support from the Chinese community, and that has been very heartening.”
The Sien Lok Society promotes Chinese heritage in Calgary. Director Judy Nguyen says she has eaten shark fin soup many times, but was unaware of the controversy surrounding it. She says once her organization was made aware of the issue, supporting a ban was an obvious decision.
“Some compromise needs to be made in order to uphold [Chinese] tradition,” says Nguyen. “There are alternatives to using shark fin, like using glass noodles instead, or abalone... I don’t think the removal of shark fin from Calgary Chinese menus is going to detrimentally affect our culture.”