Scarborough Centre councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker watched a Canadian documentary film three years ago called Sharkwater.
The real predators are humans, who are slaughtering these beautiful creatures.
— Glenn De Baeremaeker
The film outlined how the shark-hunting industry is driving sharks to extinction. It included footage of shark finning facilities and a narration of how the increasing demand for shark-fin soup is fueling an illegal trade in sharks. De Baeremaeker couldn’t get his mind off the possible mass extinction of sharks and was determined that he would do something about it.
“The documentary showed me how beautiful sharks really were,” said De Baeremaeker. “I’ve always thought they were scary like in the movie Jaws, and were going to eat me. The real predators are humans, who are slaughtering these beautiful creatures. It is cruel, barbaric and inhumane.”
Three years after De Baeremeaker saw the movie, he championed bringing in a ban on the local use and possession of shark fins at Toronto Council.
At the end of October, city councillors voted 38-4 to ban the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin products in Toronto.
Merchants now have 10 months to run through supplies of shark products before the city’s ban takes effect.
“I am very excited that Torontonians are part of a global solution,” De Baeremeaker said. “Sharks are helpless and this is something we could do to help them by not consuming shark fins, just like how we could save elephants by not consuming ivory. We might save millions.”
Amidst the excitement of some after the shark fin ban had been voted in, Chinese restaurant consumers and owners have not been too thrilled about the ban.
Zhong Shen and Wendy Jin are a married couple who are online tutoring entrepreneurs. They brought their daughter to dinner at Perfect Chinese Restauranton Sheppard Ave. E.
Most people are concerned about taxes and the economy instead.
— Wendy Jin
Only consuming shark fin soup once or twice a year, they don’t think the ban would affect their lives that much. However, they are not too sure about whether the law would be successfully implemented.
“The people who want to consume it will still consume it, the people who don’t normally eat shark fins, like us, would continue to not eat it,” Jin said.
“We don’t really understand why Councillor De Baeremaeker would suggest this motion, it is not what concerns most of the residents in his ward, most people are concerned about taxes and the economy instead.”
Alan Ma, assistant manager of the Golden Oriental Palace Chinese Cuisine at 4438 Sheppard Ave. E., felt there are areas where the councillors overlooked while implementing the ban.
Ma felt consumers would choose Chinese restaurants in those areas instead of Scarborough from now on. He also pointed out that the ban should not just be implemented in this city, but also nationwide if the ban is to be effective.
Ma said that he supports protecting the environment, but the government is wrong in only banning shark fins and not banning the entire consumption of shark meat products.
“Let’s see if as many people will still vote for Councillor De Baeremeaker in the next election,” he said.
De Baeremaeker’s response was: “I’d say get over it. It is not much of a sacrifice.”
He explained that restaurant owners who make money selling shark fins are just making up excuses, while residents in his ward show support for his motion. He pointed out that his job is to keep the city healthy, vibrant and sustainable.
He added the Chinese-Canadians he knows, including Councillors Chin Lee and Kristyn Wong-Tam, do not like eating shark fins and fully support the ban.