Delta won't be jumping in the water with other municipalities that have passed bylaws banning the trading and sale of shark fins.
Delta council discussed a staff report Monday looking at what a number of other jurisdictions have done in response to a vocal cross-country lobby against the sale of shark fins, considered a delicacy in the Chinese community, but stopped short of approving civic legislation.
The battles lines were drawn in the heated issue last fall when Richmond MP Alice Wong enjoyed a bowl of shark fin soup in front of the Asian media, reiterating her government's position that the banning of shark fin products, including soup, is a federal, not a local, responsibility.
Locally, several communities, including Port Moody, North Vancouver, New Westminster and Coquitlam, have already banned the sale of shark fin products, while Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond - the three communities with the largest number of businesses selling shark fin products - agreed to look into it.
Delta council heard a presentation a few weeks ago from Anthony Marr with the Vancouver Animal Defence League, who urged the civic politicians to also implement a ban.
Since then, Delta staff conducted a survey of Asian restaurants in the municipality and found none offer shark fin soup on the menu. Council was told, however, if neighbouring municipalities move to ban shark fin soup, the potential exists for those restaurants to move to Delta, unless a similar ban is in place or senior levels of government institute a ban.
Two years ago, the City of Toronto adopted a bylaw that took effect in September 2012 prohibiting the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin and shark fin food products. Not long afterward, Toronto's bylaw was struck down by the court for being outside the city's power.
The staff report to Delta council notes the key difference between Toronto's bylaw and those adopted by Metro Vancouver municipalities is the legislation here approaches the issue from a business regulation standpoint under the authority of the Community Charter.
The Toronto bylaw also addressed the possession and consumption of shark fins from a health and environment perspective, which could have impacted people in the privacy of their own residences.
The report also notes a ban by resolution is unenforceable, as tickets could not be written against offenders. A ban by bylaw could be enforceable through Delta's bylaw adjudication system or the court system, however, it carries the potential of being challenged by the business community.
Enacting a bylaw banning shark fins would also fail to address the private use of the product and could help to create a black market for shark fin, further encouraging the inhumane practice of shark finning, according to the report,
"Banning shark fin soup by bylaw or resolution is a local response to a global problem.
"Municipalities are powerless to enact legislation prohibiting the import of illegally acquired shark fin or the private use of shark fin outside of licensed businesses," the report states.
"Therefore, the best method of thinking globally and acting locally in this case is to lobby the provincial and federal governments to take steps to prohibit the import, possession, sale, and distribution of shark fin."
Coun. Sylvia Bishop said she was disappointed a stronger stand wasn't taken by her colleagues, noting it may have been appropriate to at least make a symbolic gesture, even though it could be challenged.
Saying he doesn't believe in symbolic gestures that are outside the municipality's jurisdiction, Coun.
Robert Campbell responded that he doesn't believe a flood of Asian eateries serving shark fins will arrive in Delta.
Council instead voted in favour of writing to various MPs and senior government, asking them to take steps to prohibit the import, possession, sale and distribution of the controversial product.