Shark Fin Free

Toronto is really two for two when it comes to the municipal bans these days.

First, Toronto City Council unanimously bans the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.

And now, by a vote of 38-4, they have made Toronto the latest shark fin free city in Canada (well, as of September 1, 2012, when the ban takes effect).

“A group gathers outside Toronto City Hall on Tuesday ahead of a council vote on a proposed ban on the trade of shark fins.” (Anu Singh/CBC)

Sure, this topic may seem a little out of place at the Soapbox.  But just watch; we’ll come full circle.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the documentary Sharkwater (and if you haven’t, drop everything and get to it), but the whole reason a shark fin ban is a good idea is because upwards of 70 million sharks are estimated to be killed annually for their fins.  And it’s not pretty – the fins are often removed and the sharks are returned to the water alive, finless.  Not to mention the countless other sea creatures that fall victim to the longlines in the process.  It’s a senseless practice, all in the name of shark fin soup.

And how is this cruel form of over-fishing accepted?

Because sharks are basically the aquatic version of the bully breed.  Who cares what harm may be done to these man-eating monsters?

Rob Stewart free diving with Caribbean reef sharks. Freeport Bahamas. Photo: Veruschka Matchett (sharkwater.com)

The film Sharkwater is an excellent counter to the blood-thirsty shark stereotype, and very akin to the way pitbull advocates combat their own misconceptions and BSL issues, Canadian Rob Stewart is trying to bring a little reality and perspective to popular opinion of sharks.

I mean, did you know you are more likely to get struck by lightning or killed in a sand hole collapse than killed by a shark?  264 million people enter the water in the United States each year – and only 23 people had unfavourable shark encounters in 2000 (and they all survived to tell the tale).

And I’d also like to say that personally, as a diver, the prospect of seeing a shark on a dive is awesome and exciting.  And I’d like them to have all of their fins, thank you.

Yours truly.

Here’s hoping more Canadian cities follow Toronto’s lead when it comes to both recent bans.

Though, I suppose there’s a little irony in that several cities – in the one province in Canada with a pitbull ban – have the backs (dorsals?) of another misunderstood creature.  BSL repeal, please.

In the meantime, be careful not to patronize any restaurants serving shark fin soup, and check for a shark fin free campaign in your area.

Information on Shark Fin Free Calgary can be found here – be sure to sign the petition!