Newmarket mulls petition to ban shark fin soup

Some Newmarket restaurants may soon have one less item on their menus if Sarah Samwel can convince the town’s council to ban shark fin soup.

The 20-year-old University of Toronto student brought a petition calling for the ban to her hometown’s inclusivity committee on Nov. 8.

“(Fisheries) take the sharks out of the water alive … cut off their fins that help them swim and then they throw them back into the water essentially to suffocate,” Samwel said. “So they’re left to die a horrible death.”

This process, known as finning, was banned in Canadian waters in 1994.

But, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, “finning may continue to be significant by foreign vessels in international waters, especially for species that do not have good market value for the meat.”

Cynthia’s Chinese Restaurant in Newmarket had shark fin soup on its menu before the petition was handed to the inclusivity committee but has since removed the dish.

Restaurant management had no comment when asked what effect dropping the soup had on business.

Banning shark fin soup has met with some opposition and Samwel said she can understand why.

“The Chinese-Canadian community doesn’t want to be [pegged] as bad people for having this soup,” she said. “That’s totally a legitimate concern. They want it as their tradition and they want it as an economic thing.

“But at this point we’ve decimated the population of sharks so much that they can’t afford it anymore.”

If Newmarket’s inclusivity committee accepts the petition, a motion to ban shark fin soup will then be presented to the full town council, where, Coun. Madeline Di Muccio said, several issues need to be weighed.

“When it comes to municipal government, we can’t just pass bylaws on a whim,” Di Muccio said. “I don’t like passing bylaws that are frivolous. They really have to have some meaning.

“So if we say we’re banning shark fin soup, then you have to send the bylaw officers and make sure they’re banning it.”