Council holds off on further bylaw readings to consult with Chinese community
City council passed its first reading in favour of the shark fin ban bylaw in an 11-3 vote. However, the bylaw won't come into effect until further readings have occurred.
Aldermen Brian Pincott and John Mar brought forward the bylaw to council on Oct. 15 to ban the possession and consumption of shark fins in Calgary. Council refrained to do a second reading because they want to collaborate more with the Chinese community, who use shark fins in certain dishes.
However, city council expects the shark fin ban bylaw to be implemented by July 1, 2013.
Shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy, where the shark fins provide texture and the taste comes from other ingredients in the soup. However, shark fins can be sold in many different forms, such as cooked, dried or raw. According to the Shark Fin Free Calgary website, the process in which they fin sharks is inhumane and involves cutting off all of their fins and throwing them back in the water, leaving the animals unable to breathe or swim.
Ingrid Kuenzel, spokesperson for the organization, says that sharks are in great danger of becoming extinct.
The Shark Fin Free Calgary petition has over 11,000 signatures supporting the shark fin ban and the Chinese Merchants Association's petition has over 3,000 signatures against the councils lack of consultation with the Chinese community.
"I think that an eight-month implementation period is plenty of time to ironout any wrinkles," said Calgary's mayor, Naheed Nenshi. While he supports the ban, he is also sympathetic towards the Chinese Merchants Association's concerns and the cultural traditions of the Chinese community.
"We do have to make this decision understanding the broader environmental and ethical issues that are being raised," said Nenshi.
According to Kuenzel, sharks are an apex predator and have been around for over 400 million years, which means these animals have survived five extinctions. Each month about six million sharks are being killed around the world, she said.
"In the course of one human generation, they will be extinct," said Kuenzel.
Kuenzel said the overharvesting of sharks is removing the apex predators out of the ecosystem and this ecosystem provides the world with more than half of the oxygen that we all need to breathe.
"It's very disheartening that one ingredient in one food item on an amazing menu of usually 99 dishes, and when we know there's sustainable shark fin alternatives available, that there's such a big uproar over one ingredient in one item, yet we're willing to sacrifice our largest ecosystem on our planet — the ocean, for that one food item," said Kuenzel.
According to Kuenzel, the Chinese Merchants Association was contacted six months ago and was not interested in the outreach that city council provided. Now the association has contacted city council, which assured them that business owners would not suffer from the ban and would be given sufficient time in order to sell their inventories.
"There are different ways to communicate. We all know how to communicate, but that was lacking," said Ken Lee, former spokesperson and volunteer for the Chinese Merchants Association. "There were concerns of not being heard."
The Chinese community needs to be involved in a publicly engaged process, as it allows people to talk about and come up with solutions, Lee said.
The Chinese Merchants Association's petition isn't against the shark fin ban bylaw, but just the lack of communication between city council and the Chinese community.
The shark fin ban bylaw will be discussed again in early January.
- By Haleigh Packer & Meagan Gill