Group says shark finning unsustainable, inhumane
Packages of dried shark fin products are shown in a store in Chinatown in San Francisco, Calif., Thursday, May 5, 2011. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS / Jeff Chiu)
He may be a shark on the court, but Yao Ming, the China-born professional basketball player, doesn't condone shark finning: the practice of removing a shark's fin and discarding the rest to prepare shark fin soup.
It's a gastronomical delicacy in traditional Chinese cuisine which costs, on average, of a $100 a bowl.
Earlier this year, Ming, who plays for the Houston Rockets, lent his celebrity status to the growing anti-finning movement in the United States and around the world. He filmed a public service announcement in San Francisco, home to the country's oldest Chinatown, for the international conservation group WildAid.
Last month, the group's Canadian representative spearheaded the first ban of the Chinese delicacy in a Canadian city: Brantford, Ont.
"This directly affects every citizen here in Brantford and everywhere else. Everyone who ever bought a can of tuna to serve their family, well if there are no sharks in the ocean, there aren't going to be many tuna either," former Brantford MPP Phil Gillies told CTV News Southwestern Ontario last month.
The anti-finning campaign is now making waves in Toronto.
On Monday, councillors Glenn De Baeremaker and Kristyn Wong-Tam will propose a city-wide ban of the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin.
The pair will be joined by Rob Stewart, the award-winning documentary filmmaker of "Sharkwater," and Rob Sinclair, the executive director of WildAid Canada.
According to WildAid, up to 73 million sharks are killed each year. At that rate, the conservation group estimates that some species of shark will be at the brink of extinction within the next 10 to 15 years.
"Overfishing of sharks, with shark fin demand as one of the primary drivers, is thought to have reduced population by up to 90 per cent in the last 15 years," WildAid's executive director Peter Knights told CTV News.
Traditionally served on such auspicious occasions as the annual Chinese New Year, the traditional shark fin soup may be delicious to some, but marine experts say finning is an unsustainable practice.
According to WildAid, sharks are "captured at sea and hauled on deck … their fins are hacked off." And because shark meat is not considered as valuable as the animal's fin, the "maimed animals are tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death."
"The only way to protect the sharks is to eliminate the demand for the product," Gilles said. He said humane harvesting isn't possible.
Gilles acknowledges that his group has made significant progress over the years, changing attitudes consumers have towards the dish.
In 2003, for example, the EU regulated finning -- although according to a report released last year by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Shark Specialist Group, illegal shark finning continues to go undetected -- and in Canadian waters, the practice has been illegal since 1993.
But despite the progress, WildAid and other international conservation groups continue to fight to ban shark finning.