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Brantford first city in Canada to ban shark fin

A glass jar of shark fin sold at a shop in Toronto's Chinatown.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Brantford, Ont., population of roughly 90,000, is putting itself on the map as the first Canadian jurisdiction to ban shark fin.

In a city council meeting Monday night, Brantford councillors voted unanimously in favour of prohibiting the possession, sale and consumption of the Chinese delicacy, aiming to set an example for the rest of the country.

Every year, the shark finning industry kills an estimated 73 million sharks, and is notorious for its cruel and wasteful practice of slicing fins off live fish and letting them die slowly. Conservation groups say one-third of the world's shark species are now threatened with extinction.

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Several U.S. jurisdictions have introduced or proposed bans on the trade and consumption of shark fin, including Hawaii, Guam, Washington state, Oregon and California. Brantford is the first municipality in North America to do so.

The landlocked, mid-sized Ontario city is an unlikely place to take the lead. No restaurant in the city actually offers shark fin, which is generally served in soup at Chinese banquets. Nonetheless, that didn't stop Phil Gillies, former Brantford member of provincial parliament and supporter of the conservation group WildAid, from proposing the motion for the ban.

"The city is moving on this issue to draw attention to this looming ecological crisis, and to set an example for other towns and cities throughout the world," Mr. Gillies said in a press release.

Brantford city councillor Dan McCreary said the penalties for violating the ban have yet to be determined. Unlike in the U.S., where some have criticized shark fin bans as discriminatory, Mr. McCreary said there has been no opposition in Brantford.

"We've got a lot of Chinese, Japanese and other Oriental folks here in town. But you know, I don't see that this is particularly an issue for them either," he said.

"If you prohibit the sale of these products, you'll prohibit the murder of these animals," Mr. McCreary said. "Hopefully other jurisdictions will follow suit."

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