Shark fin soup debate heats up in Calgary

Some Chinese Calgarians say city council should have consulted the community before it voted to ban shark fin soup earlier this summer.

Roughly 500 people sign petition asking council to reverse bylaw to ban shark fins

Shark fin soup controversy heats up

9 years ago
Calgary Chinese community members are upset they weren't consulted about a shark fin ban. 1:42

Some Chinese Calgarians are asking city council to reverse its decision to ban the distribution and sale of shark fins in the city.

Council followed a number of North American cities in voting for the ban earlier this summer.

Shark fins are often used in soup, and the delicacy is prepared in Chinese kitchens across the city as a symbol of ''respect" — something Chinese Calgarians say was missing in how city council handled the shark fin issue.

"People are feeling upset because they weren't talked to and they weren't listened to," said Jason Au with the Calgary Chinese Merchants Association.

He says he read about the ban in a local paper, and when he went from restaurant to restaurant many didn't know about it.

Millions of sharks are killed every year for their fins, and many times the fins are cut off and the sharks are thrown back into the water alive to die slowly.

Ald. Brian Pincott, who brought the idea of the ban to council, said finning sharks unsustainably could eventually lead to extinction and shark fins are also dangerous for humans because of the mercury content. 

But some in the community feel city council voted on something most aldermen really didn't understand.

Ban shocks members of Chinese community

Au says Canada already has legislation in place to make sure shark fins sold in the country are fished sustainably, and policing what they can put on the table is overkill.

Annette Fung at the Silver Dragon Restaurant in Chinatown says she was shocked when she heard about the impending ban. She said shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy ordered as a treat on special occasions.

"All of a sudden my customers don't have that freedom of choice anymore," she said.

Fung is among about 500 mostly Chinese Calgarians who have signed a petition opposing the ban.

About 60 of them attended a town hall meeting Tuesday night.

Eva Seto was at the meeting and said city council is banning a family tradition for her — a recipe that has been passed down from her grandmother.

"It will be so sad, actually, so sad," she said. 

Those behind the petition would like to present it to the city before the bylaw banning the sale of shark fins is expected to come back to city council this fall.