Calls to ban shark fin soup growing around the world

Friday 25 March 2011 01:00 GMT

The chorus of condemnation on the shark fin trade is growing louder around the world, with plans to bring the anti-finning campaign to Canada.

WildAid, one of the animal rights groups which has been mounting pressure around the US to ban the sale and trade of shark fins, announced plans to extend their fight north of the border to Canada.

Online campaigns are also gaining momentum, with Facebook groups like "Petition to ban shark fin soup in Canada," and pages of grassroots groups supporting the cause.

Currently, California is considering banning the sale and distribution of shark fins, the key ingredient to a Chinese delicacy. If passed, California would join Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and the US Territory of Guam in enacting a ban. Palau, the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as Honduras and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, have also passed similar protections for the endangered predators.

Shark fin soup is often served at special occasions like Chinese New Year's and weddings as a show of wealth to guests. The traditional delicacy is considered a luxurious expense and can fetch as much as $100 a bowl.

But in recent months, environmental and animal welfare groups have turned up the heat, launching aggressive campaigns to put a stop to what they call a trade of cruelty. After their fins are cut off, shark carcasses are thrown back into the sea, a practice that's been compared to poaching elephants for their ivory tusks.

Environmental groups say more than 73 million sharks are finned for the Chinese soup and that one-third of the world's sharks are threatened with extinction.

New York-based Shark Savers as well as, in Australia, are also outspoken anti-finning groups.

While the proposal to ban a Chinese delicacy has drawn accusations of racism into inflammatory discussions, WildAid counts a number of high-profile Chinese celebrities and sports stars among its allies. Film star Jackie Chan, NBA player Yao Ming and actors Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung are all outspoken ambassadors for the group.

Earlier this month, a Chinese legislator also caused a stir after proposing a ban on the trade of shark fins in Chinese parliament.

Meanwhile, though shark finning is banned in the European Union, critics say that fishermen have been taking advantage of a loophole to continue cutting fins off at sea.

With 55 percent of the entire Asian-American population living in California, the state is one of the largest sources of shark fin demand outside Asia.

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