Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vancouver Sun and Province articles on banning shark fins

The Province newspaper (circ. 502,000) cover story!

Vancouver campaigner raises cultural hackles in call for ban of shark fin sales

By Cheryl Chan, The Province
July 9, 2011 9:01 PM

On a sunny Saturday morning, Anthony Marr walks into Beijing Trading Company herbal store on Pender Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown and asks the shopkeeper in Cantonese about her shark fin.

“Do you know where it’s from?”

“Will you lose money if it’s banned tomorrow?”

“As a Chinese person, do you think we should stop?”

Marr, a Vancouver-based Chinese-Canadian activist, is calling for a ban on the sale and consumption of shark fin, and today he is taking the media on a tour of businesses still selling it.

Shopkeeper Yvonna Tsang looks taken aback, but answers Marr’s questions.

“People are buying less. Not so many use it for banquets now,” she says, motioning to the store’s last remaining jar of shark fin on the shelf behind her. She said once that stock is sold out, she will stop selling the product.

“Our Chinese culture understand and wants to protect the sharks.”

The issue raises ethical concerns as well as some cultural hackles.

Shark fin, a traditional Chinese delicacy dating back centuries, is usually served in soup. The prized fin itself is rather bland, with a stringy, gelatinous texture, but the dish is considered one of the “big four” — along with abalone, fish maw and sea cucumbers — often served at weddings and important celebrations.

Most fins are harvested from sharks in the open ocean, where they are unprotected by bans.

Shark-finning, which involves slicing off the fins and throwing the maimed creatures back into the water, leaving them to starve or bleed to death, has long drawn the ire of animal rights activists.

An estimated 35 to 73 million sharks are killed off every year, pushing the world’s battered oceans to a “point of no return,” said Marr.

Simon Fraser University professor Nick Dulvy, co-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s shark specialist group, says that out of 21 shark species commonly captured by commercial fisheries, half are threatened.

“There are a lot of sharks being killed and it’s driving them towards extinction,” he said.

Poaching is also prevalent, adds Marr, and because merchants have no easy way to identify what species a particular fin is from, a blanket ban on all fins should be imposed.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, shark populations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea have collapsed by 90 per cent over the last 15 years. Some scientists predict the extinction of sharks in less than two decades.

Demand for shark fin has risen as Chinese people become increasingly affluent. About half of the world’s shark fin harvest is consumed in mainland China.

Overfishing of other species such as tuna also forces fishermen to focus the hunt on the marine predators.

In Canada, where the practice of shark finning is illegal (but not shark hunting), shark product imports have remained steady. In 2009, Canada imported 311,600 kilograms of shark products, including 77,000 kilograms of frozen or dried shark fin.

For many Chinese people who have struggled out of poverty, shark fin soup — which goes for between $10 and $60 a serving — is considered a status symbol, showcasing success and fortune.

Marr, who has eaten shark fin before, said he doesn’t dislike the taste, but that it doesn’t justify the carnage being wreaked in our oceans.

“The people either don’t know or they don’t care. Usually it’s both.”

When Judy Lao told her father she didn’t want shark fin soup served at her wedding reception at the Floata Restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown on Sunday, he was horrified.

“It was important to him,” says Lao, 28. “He said it doesn’t look good, because shark fin is a traditional wedding dish. It’s a sign of wealth.”

Like many younger Chinese-Canadians, Lao and her fiancée, Jason Shim, are aware of the cruelty of shark finning and don’t attach the same cache to the soup as their parents or grandparents.

“We don’t really care, our friends don’t care and shark fin has no nutritional value anyway, so why should we serve it?”

Lao eventually won her dad over. He has since been bragging to his friends about his daughter’s stance, which won the couple a trip to Hawaii as part of a contest sponsored by Vancouver-based grassroots organization Shark Truth.

Founder Claudia Li, 24, became a shark champion after watching the documentary Sharkwater by Toronto native Rob Stewart and finding out where her soup came from.

“I was angry at myself for being so ignorant,” she says. “I had no idea how bad it was.”

Li says shark finning is an extremely wasteful practice that goes against the Chinese virtue of frugality.

Her group aims to end the consumption of shark fin, “one bowl at a time,” whether through awareness or legislation, in five to 10 years.

By asking young Chinese-Canadian couples to pledge to give up shark fin soup at their wedding banquet, Li estimates they have diverted 8,600 bowls — or 860 sharks — from consumption. This fall, she also plans to hold an Iron Chef-style cooking contest aimed at encouraging chefs to come up with an alternative to shark fin soup.

Li says it’s been a struggle to get restaurateurs on board.

In Vancouver, only Ken’s Chinese Restaurant on Kingsway has lent its support to Shark Truth’s campaign. Most, if not all, Cantonese-style restaurants in Vancouver still serve the dish.

“They say, ‘We get it, and we don’t want to serve it, but if we don’t, our competitors will and we’ll lose a lot of business,’” explains Li.

At Vancouver’s upscale Kirin Restaurant, manager Andrew Yee said the restaurant now offers banquet menus without shark fin soup because more and more customers are turning down the dish.

But it’s still available on other banquet menus and on the à la carte menu. He estimates he receives about five orders a day.

“The old people prefer shark fin,” he says. “But this new generation, they don’t like it. They only want to please the old people, to make them happy.”

But the tide is turning.

In China itself, a lawmaker has proposed a ban on the shark-fin trade.

In the U.S., Hawaii, Washington and Oregon have already imposed bans on shark fin.

Last month, Brantford, Ont. banned the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin — the first Canadian municipality to outlaw it.

And in Toronto, councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker says his motion to ban shark fin was met with overwhelming support, even among Chinese-Canadians. He is confident the motion will pass and sees no reason why a ban would not work in Vancouver.

“I’ve always thought of Vancouver as a more ecologically-minded city, more in touch with its oceans and mountains,” he says.

Some critics say it would be better to work toward sustainability of shark populations.

Dulvy says a ban would centre the debate on loss of freedom and cultural rights.

“The community will feel like their freedoms are being removed,” he points out, noting shark fin is to Chinese culture what turkey is to Thanksgiving. “It can offend them pretty deeply.”

In California, the issue has divided the Chinese-Canadian community, with senator Leland Yee calling the ban an “unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine.”

Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang, who has been watching efforts in other cities, says a shark-fin ban would be controversial, hard to enforce, and might drive the trade underground.

“I’m not seeing [a ban] as having a real impact,” he says. “In fact, it causes a lot of animosity and it’s not as constructive as educating people and promoting an alternative.”

Back in Chinatown, Bobo Chu of Cheung Sing Herbal on Main Street, where several jars of shark fin were on display, is neither for or against a ban.

“It’s up to the customer and the government,” she says through a translator.

A ban, however, should encompass more than just Vancouver, she says.

“If Richmond can sell the shark fin, they’ll have more business.”

Mar, who describes himself as a Chinese David taking on a Chinese Goliath, says it’ll be no loss to Chinese culture to lose the fin.

“People just buy it because it’s a status symbol. They don’t even like it that much.”
© Copyright (c) The Province


Animal rights activist no stranger to confrontation

By Cheryl Chan, The Province
July 9, 2011 9:01 PM

Longtime Vancouver activist Anthony Marr is no stranger to going head-to-head with Chinese culture to protect endangered animals.

In 1995, Marr organized a media tour through Vancouver’s Chinatown apothecaries, pointing out where tiger bone, bear gallbladders and rhino horns were being used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Born in China’s Guangdong province, Marr and his family fled to Hong Kong when he was five, then to Canada, when he was 20, where he studied physics and geology at the University of B.C.

Marr has been an outspoken critic of whale-hunting and bear-hunting in B.C., Alberta’s tarsands and Canada’s seal hunt.

In 2008, he planted time capsules across Canada — meant to be opened in 2060 — containing evidence of environmental destruction, praise for activists and the names of “criminals” he believes are responsible for the damage.

As founder of Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE), Marr spends half the year travelling across the U.S. giving speeches and helping groups with campaigns.

Last year, in Washington, D.C., he was honoured with the Henry Spiro Award for animal rights activism.

For his outspoken views and fearlessness in criticizing Chinese practices, Marr has been heckled on Chinese radio talk shows and called a traitor, he says.

But he remains defiant.

“If we don’t change and we drive all these species to extinction, our reputation will be forever mud,” he says. “But if we can stop this practice, led by Chinese people ourselves, we can clean up our reputation.”

© Copyright (c) The Province

"Environmentalist Anthony Marr launches a campaign at Guohua apothecary on 512 Main St., to ban shark fins in Vancouver, BC., on July 9, 2011." (Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, Vancouver Sun, the Province, PNG)

Activists protest to ban shark fins in China Town

By Medha, Vancouver Sun July 9, 2011

Environmentalist Anthony Marr launches a campaign at the Beijing Trading Co. Ltd to ban shark fins.

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, Vancouver Sun

A group of local community organizations and activists came together in China Town Saturday morning in support of a ban on shark fins.

Shark fin soup has been served as a delicacy for centuries in China and elsewhere and is a huge status symbol often served at wedding banquets.

The demand has been so huge, that it has led to the virtual decimation of the species. Shark populations worldwide have been in decline and as many as 73 million are thought to be traded annually for their fins triggering a conservation crisis.

“The removal of the top predator from the oceans is bound to have serious consequences,” said Anthony Marr, a Chinese Canadian animal rights activist who is campaigning for the ban. He has previously been involved with campaigns leading to the ban of products containing tiger bone, bear bile and rhino horns.

Claudia Li, the founder of Shark Truth, an organization that has been involved in grassroots efforts to stop shark fin use within the Chinese-Canadian community said that she supported the idea of ban, but felt that cultural sensitivity was needed in addressing the issue. “Most vendors dealing in shark fins here in China Town are low and middle income operators,” she said, “we need to work at making the community aware rather than antagonizing them. That only burns bridges.”

Shark Tooth has been involved in an innovative project that asks young couples to publicly pledge that they will not serve shark fin soup at their wedding banquet and offers them a chance to win a honeymoon trip.

The project said Li has been hugely successful, “It has been a slow process but the younger generation is embracing the change — now it has become rather unstylish to serve the shark fin soup at weddings.”

Yvonna Tsang, the owner of Beijing Trading Company, a shop that still stocks the delicacy said that she has seen demand go down in the past few years and is herself considering not to stock the product any longer.

The younger generation is far more aware she said, admitting that she herself wasn’t aware of the harm caused by the practice until she saw the documentary Sharkwater on television.

Bans help, but working at a grassroots level is the best way forward, said Mike McDermid, of Ocean Wise, a Vancouver Aquarium conservation initiative over a phone interview, “as demand goes down, so does the incentive for stocking and trading in the product.”

Recently, Brantford, Ontario became the first municipality in Canada to ban shark fins.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun


Follwing are some comments to the Province article (please read from the bottom up:


5:32 PM on July 11, 2011

My families culture involved lopping off the heads of people we didn't like with a 4' broad sword for a few hundred years can I practice my heritage here?
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Score: 2
White Rock

1:31 PM on July 11, 2011

Up to 73 million sharks a year killed mainly for their fins? Ouch!
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Score: 2

9:56 AM on July 11, 2011

Lets see...

Bird's nests, shark fins, bee larvae, starfish, tiger/deer/sheep/ox/seal/snake/dog penis, bear gallbladder, cow gallstones, cordyceps (parasitic fungus worth $9000+/kg), Sparrows (including bones), dirt (literally), goat feotus, cats, rats, scorpions, spiders, grasshoppers (without chocolate? philistines), and of course sea turtles, I'm running out of characters so I'll stop.

Time to close the border. The rates of integration are horrible. Some children integrate well but we CANNOT handle the Family Class. Mass mailing in ONLY Chinese is NOT multiculturalism, it failed long ago and is now just ethnic vote pandering.

The doom and gloom from negative birth rates is fear mongering. We are a resource exporting country. We don't need to be another financial/service sector. Economists agree that GDP would slow for 4-6 years and then we would rapidly recover WITHOUT losing our culture or standard of living.

NO MORE FAMILY CLASS. Makes those who DO try look like suckers.
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Score: 2
Be Reasonable_

4:59 AM on July 11, 2011

Hopefully, Anthony Marr and Claudia Li represent the future of the Chinese Canadian community. Destroying the biodiversity and environment that acts as the life support system for all of us just to support a superstition and feebly try to project status is as pathetic as it is stupid. The 'cultural' argument gets taken far too far. Every culture is full of some good and some stupid practices, and we desperately need to get rid of the stupid ones like shark fin soup. Than you Mr. Marr and Ms. Li for your efforts.
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Score: 2
Be Reasonable_

4:58 AM on July 11, 2011

Hopefully, Anthony Marr and Claudia Li represent the future of the Chinese Canadian community. Destroying the biodiversity and environment that acts as the life support system for all of us just to support a superstition and feebly try to project status is as pathetic as it is stupid. The 'cultural' argument gets taken far too far. Every culture is full of some good and some stupid practices, and we desperately need to get rid of the stupid ones like shark fin soup. Thank you Mr. Marr and Ms. Li for your efforts.
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Score: 4

4:45 AM on July 11, 2011

The federal government should take a leadership role and ban it. There are so few sharks left, some baby shark fins are used in the soups. It is a status symbol to serve this soup at banquets, but finning is an inhumane, brutal and despicable practice. All animals have feelings and emotions. Our oceans are going to be giant mudholes at the rate humans have plundered and sucked the fish out at a horrendous speed never seen before. We get a third of our oxygen from the life in the oceans, so with our growing population, pollution and decimating of sea life, humans may have a survival problem.
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Score: 4
Anthony Marr

6:47 PM on July 10, 2011

Back in 1996 I conducted a similar campaign on tiger bone, rhino horn and bear bile, and forced out a federal law called WAPPRIITA (Wild Animals and Plants Protection and International and Interprovincial Trade Act), which prohibits the importation, trade, sale, possession and use of items containing endangered species ingredients within Canada. Over 200 shark species are endangered, and poachers kill indiscriminately. Since we cannot inexpensively determine which fin came from what species, the only way to enforce this law is to ban all fins. Concerned Canadians should write their federal MPs. What good is a law if not enforced?
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Score: 0

6:41 PM on July 10, 2011

Bruno11 makes a good point. As long as people are pointing fingers at the Chinese, it might be time to examine our own consumption of red meat and various other gluttonous habits. Global warming, to which Canadians are among the largest per-capita contributors in the world, is one of the biggest threats to ocean life, and life in general.
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Score: 3

4:53 PM on July 10, 2011

I have often not agreed with Marr, but this time I do agree.
Good work Marr.

Ban trade and consumption of shark fins.

Terrible waste of resource.
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Score: 3

4:34 PM on July 10, 2011

I applaud those Chinese(and anyone for that matter regardless of race) who started this effort to rid the world of this horrible practice. Shark fin soup is nothing more than a waste. The more education on how it is acquired the better. Lets avoid the cultural issue and discuss it as a world/species issue. For those that blame "Asians" get a grip they may be the ones who are eating it, but read the article the movement was started by those that learned it wasn't right. Education and discussion will stop the practice. Hate speech and racism will not!

Score: 0
Name withheld

3:58 PM on July 10, 2011

This comment has been removed because it contains material which was deemed inappropriate.

Score: 5
Name withheld

2:37 PM on July 10, 2011

This comment has been removed because it contains material which was deemed inappropriate.
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Score: 3

12:07 PM on July 10, 2011

Does anybody proofread these articles? The word is cachet, not cache. It makes it sound like they stockpile the soup.

Score: 3
Name withheld

11:38 AM on July 10, 2011

This comment has been removed because it contains material which was deemed inappropriate.
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Score: 6
Not Here

11:24 AM on July 10, 2011

Yes Bruno, but cows are not an endangered species. If the sharks for fin soup were a cultivated animal, not a threatened animal, there would be little outcry.

You can't eat bald headed eagle, or mountain gorillas, or many many other endangered species. It is not a cultural prejudice to protect a species from extinction.

As the article makes clear - shark fin is not that appetizing. It's eaten as a status symbol. Rather a pathetic reason to eat something, and an incredibly facile reason to eat a species to extinction.
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Score: 1

10:18 AM on July 10, 2011

I think it's repulsive to hitch a cow up in it's hind legs split it open to have all the insides spill out and then mutilated for steaks and cheeseburgers. Until then people here take care of their own pathetic ways and then start preaching about how other people should live. Btw off to the chuck wagon races today...only one horse killed this year or sorry "put down" if easier on the ears! Our school children should have field trips to the slaughter houses instead of waterparks and aquariums. Have the open "cut the head off the chicken" booth at all local farmers markets. Educate them early .People should check out the vegan websites!
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Score: 2
Richmond anon

8:58 AM on July 10, 2011

If all else fails and you don't like the practices of a restaurant, then boycott them. In the end, money seems to speak loudest, so withhold yours from restaurants that promote this cruelty and waste.
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Score: 7

8:58 AM on July 10, 2011

Just about any practice can be defended on the grounds that it is part of one's "culture." It doesn't make it right. And in any case, preservation of the global environment should take precedent over Chinese dietary practices, methinks.
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Score: 7

3:34 AM on July 10, 2011

to anon380432403:

You have a lot to learn.

The stability of the ocean's populations controls the stability of the entire global food chain.

If the oceans die, everything & everyone else dies, too. Including you & me.

We've overfished the oceans so much that marine life is currently dying at paces only seen just prior to the 5 major extinctions of the planet.

Everything we can do, including banning shark fin consumption worldwide, is absolutely necessary for the survival of our species.
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Score: -10

3:07 AM on July 10, 2011

Honestly ... this guy should get a job. Stop with these " causes". There are real causes out there. This isn't one of them. I'm sure the people in African enduring the latest humanitarian crisis don't care about the sharks. There are real issues and real suffering in this world. Stop posing and do something that actually means something. This guy is a falsely heroic fraud.
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Score: 6

2:29 AM on July 10, 2011

this the same market that condones the bleeding of live bears bladders in China for Bile and the killing of Bears in BC just for their bladders to cure penile dysfunction. THERE IS A DRUG FOR THAT NOW. Why don't they just switch to boiled pigeon feces mixed with the urine collected from Grateful Dead concert PortaPoties and dried on the sun heated hoods of 1972 HONDA Civics.
I have heard from reliable religious scriptures that it works better and is easier to get.
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Score: 8

1:49 AM on July 10, 2011

The ban is way too long in coming. The article mentions a jar on a shelf with fins in it, every time I go to Chinatown I see entire tables stacked with fins, it's appalling.
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Score: 8

12:16 AM on July 10, 2011

At $250 per table at a wedding banquet for the soup alone, I'm sure it will soon be a thing of the past.
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Score: 8

12:06 AM on July 10, 2011

The whole pacific is radioactive now thanks to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It is probably not safe to eat most seafood now anyway.

I say ban shark fin in all of B.C.

Read more:




The Province
Shark slaughter
by Kathleen Duborg
July 13, 2011

Many thanks for bringing the incredibly important topic of the sale of shark fins for soup to full coverage. I'm reminded of the devastation to elephants for their ivory tusks and their huge corpses that littered the landscape, with only their white "trophies" ripped from them and then everything else left to rot.

We are unable to fully see the devastation of the shark problem, as these poachers are able to hide their offence below the water. Every individual that eats this shark fin soup for "cultural reasons" needs to reassess a culture that does great harm and to elevate themselves and their cultural choices to a higher ethical standard. Individuals enrich and create culture over time, culture does not make the individual stand still and stupid among the ruin it creates.

Kathleen Duborg, Burnaby
© Copyright (c) The Province

Read more:


The Vancouver Sun
Saving the sharks helps the whole planet
by Dora Hoffer
July 13, 2011

Re: Shark fin losing its lustre, July 11

We need to achieve a complete ban in Vancouver and Canada on the sale of shark fins and the use of shark cartilage or other shark-derived products falsely claimed as health remedies.

Sharks, who have been around for 400 million years, have steeply declined in number in recent decades.

The majority of the decline is due to longlining and the shark-finning industry where sharks are caught, their fins cut off, and the body thrown back into the ocean.

We need to look at all shark products since every shark product sold aids the decline.

Sharks contain methyl mercury, which is known to cause significant health issues for pregnant women and children.

Methyl mercury works its way up the ecosystem and appears in higher concentrations in top predators like the shark.

The concentration of methyl mercury in sharks is also due to their long lives.

This concentration is said to be 10 to 100 times the legal limit allowed for human consumption.

In addition to the risks posed by consuming sharks, there are significant health risks for our planet. As the apex predator of the oceans, sharks keep other marine life in healthy balance and help regulate the world's largest and most important ecosystem, the ocean.

The decline of sharks threatens the ocean's ecosystem balance and will seriously upset life on this planet.

Please think ethically to help save the shark and the health of our ocean and the planet.

Dora Hoffer

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun


Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC) (AM's 3rd-book-in-the-making)

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