Shark fin questions spook Vancouver restaurants

Union of B.C. Municipalities may consider province-wide ban

Banning shark fin is on the menu at this weeks Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in Victoria but several Vancouver restaurants serving the dish are reluctant to discuss it.

In phone calls to four restaurants which serve shark fin soup, only one manager agreed to speak to the Courier. But he wouldnt provide his name and asked that the popular restaurant in Chinatown not be disclosed.

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If it becomes illegal, then well stop selling it, said the manager, noting shark fin is more popular at banquets than for regular diners.

He said shark fin is used mainly in soup, which costs $50 a bowl at his restaurant. In Asian culture, shark fin is seen as a delicacy and symbolizes wealth, power and prestige.

Though selling shark fin is legal, the manager said the issue is sensitive for many restaurants serving the product.

Were just doing business, we dont want any trouble, he said when told his restaurant was on a list posted on the website stopsharkfinning.net.

Nineteen Vancouver restaurants are listed on the website but the Courier was unable to confirm whether all served shark fin. The website names restaurants from all over the world.

The manager said he was aware of Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerrys Jangs recent motion at city council to develop a regional ban on shark fin.

Bu he wasnt familiar with North Vancouver citys resolution to go before civic politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities calling on the provincial government to implement a province-wide ban on the possession, sale and distribution of shark fin.

The federal government should also ban the import of shark fin in Canada, says the resolution, which adds the harvest of shark fins is a inhumane and wasteful practice serving a very narrow and sometimes criminal marketplace.

In introducing his motion at council, Jang held up two packages of shark fin. They belong to his mother and were purchased about 40 years ago, he said, noting their original price was $14 each.

Now this type of shark fin is worth several hundred dollars, said Jang.

Banning shark fin was one of the first requests he received when he was elected to council in 2008, he said.

He said a ban specific to Vancouver wouldnt work and would only force customers to visit restaurants in neighbouring municipalities.

A regional ban, he said, would see municipalities work together. He recommended city staff meet with civic staff in Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey to develop a regional plan to ban shark fin. Port Moody, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge have banned its sale.

In this way, we can actually make a big impact in reducing the demand for shark fin products and help save the shark species, he said.

Jang, who said shark fin was served at his wedding, stressed the ban was not an attack on a culture and that people dont have to serve shark fin to honour their guests.

Last year, he said, he and Vision Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer attended a shark fin soup replacement contest held by top Chinese chefs in Vancouver.

They came together to invent a sustainable alternative to shark fin soup that could be used at a wedding, at a banquet to honour ones guest, and it was a great success, he said.

mhowell@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Howellings

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