Friday, August 17, 2012

Letter to the mayors and councillors of all BC municipalities

To the mayors and councillors of all BC municipalities:

As you may already be aware, there is a movement sweeping the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island of British Columbia, largely instigated and driven by the Vancouver Animal Defence League (VADL), towards banning the shark fin trade on a city-by-city basis.

So far, in the United States, California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Illinois have banned shark fins state-wide. In Canada, at least 7 cities in Ontario, including Toronto, Brantford, Mississauga, Pickering, New Market, Oakville and London, have instituted bans, and here in British Columbia, Port Moody, Coquitlam, North Vancouver, and Nanaimo have all made their own announcements, while Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby are working towards a regional ban, with Surrey and Langley having invited the VADL delegation to present at their council meetings in September.

We are writing to ask the councils of all municipalities in British Columbia not yet on board to join this movement, first to ban shark fins in your own community as a remedial or preventative measure, and further to vote during the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference in Victoria towards a province-wide ban - towards protecting the marine ecosystems for our children.

Following are the main reasons for banning the trade in shark fins:

1. Shark-finning is exceedingly cruel. Sharks caught mostly with long lines are hauled into boats, have their fins cut off and the rest of their still-alive bodies cast back into the ocean. This is tantamount to some aliens abducting you, cutting off all four limbs and dumping you back on to the road. This is done due to the fact that while shark meat fetches less than $2 per kg, shark fins fetch up to $2000 per kg.

2. Each year, over 100 million sharks (by latest estimate) are finned around the world. Practically every country with a coastline does it, the "Big 5" being Costa Rica, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Indonesia (Taiwan has recently banned shark-finning).

3. Of the 450 shark species, one-third are endangered. Since shark-finning is indiscriminate, and almost no records are kept, there is no way of telling which fin in Chinatown belongs to what species short of a fin-by-fin DNA analysis. Who would pay for this? The Pew Environmental Group in the United States published a report in early August, 2012, on their country-wide DNA survey of random shark fin samples from 14 cities, which found that 81% of them were from endangered or threatened species. What more proof do we need?

4. Sharks are extremely slow reproducing. Whereas most fish spawn thousands of eggs every years, shark give birth to only 2-4 pups every 2-4 years. Most do not reach sexual maturity until 10-20 years old. There is no way they can sustain the onslaught and be able to recover, making this matter a state of emergency.

5. Sharks are apex predators, which prey on medium sized fish, but not small fish upon which the medium sized fish prey. If sharks are wiped out, the medium sized fish would proliferate and over-prey on the small fish, and the entire oceanic ecosystem could collapse. The opposition saying that suppressing shark populations would benefit human fisheries simply does not understand this fact.

6. Shark fins are of little nutritional value, but due to their high cost are served in large banquets as a status symbol for the hosts.

7. A recent poll conducted in San Francisco showed that 76% of San Franciscans and 70% of Chinese San Franciscans are in support of the California ban.

8. International law (CITES & UN) and Canadian federal law (WAPPRIITA) forbid trade on products containing endangered species parts, and Canada's own Fisheries Act forbids shark-finning in Canadian waters, which makes any city still allowing the shark fin trade in violation of all these laws.

There are those who advocate the soft-peddling "one bowl at a time" voluntary withdrawal approach. This might produce some effect given a decade or two, or three. Meanwhile, over 100 million sharks of various species are slaughtered every year, and one or two or three or four endangered shark species may have gone extinct. The sharks have simply run out of time. The only way to save them, and the health of the oceans, is by means of an outright shark fin ban, immediately or sooner.

In closing, again, please consider banning shark fins in your own municipality as a remedial or preventative measure, and further, please vote in favour of a province-wide ban at the September UBCM conference in Victoria. Thank you!


Marley Daviduk and Anthony Marr
Vancouver Animal Defence League

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