You can stop worrying, residents of Ontario: Your municipal government may soon be helping you decide what to eat.
Canada.com ran an article on May 13 reporting that a representative of an international environmentalist group proposed that the City of Brantford ban the possession, sale, and consumption of shark fin products, and at least one of its city councilors would support the bylaw proposal.
Never mind the problem that shark conservation laws by municipalities are unconstitutional because ocean species conservation and food safety is within the federal legislature’s sphere of jurisdiction.
And the problem that even if sharks were suddenly swimming in Ontario’s lakes, Brantford still could not pass a law regulating their possession in the name of conservation, because municipalities are merely a creation of the provincial legislature’s Municipal Act, and it is the provincial government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, which determines what species of fauna one may legally possess in Ontario.
Instead, let this proposal serve as an example of how the vanity of politicians so easily ends up burning a hole in the wallet of the average taxpayer.
The bylaw proposal was prompted by a letter from Phil Gillies on behalf of WildAid Canada to the members of Brantford’s City Council.
Gillies told the city politicians that, “WildAid would bring resources to bear to ensure that this initiative would be publicized throughout the world. Possibilities include local advertising/psa campaign, and media relations. WildAid international has offices or representation in San Francisco, London, Beijing, New Delhi, and the Galapagos Islands, as well as Toronto…There could be positive economic impact from Brantford becoming well known for taking such a positive environmental stand.”
It seems a bit farfetched that pilgrims from Beijing will travel to the opposite side of the globe in order to visit the Holy Shrine of the Brantford Shark Fin Bylaw and increase the local economic activity by buying a few Timbits.
Instead, the only purpose this bylaw can serve is to give publicity to some vain politicians at the expense of the taxpayer, both because it costs money to draft and pass a law, and because it costs money to defend constitutional challenges by anybody decadent enough to be affected by a ban on possessing shark fins.
Indeed, the sole Brantford residents who got any publicity from Canada.com’s article about this law was not a local business owner, but one of the town’s local politicians, and the proponent of the law, who is a former provincial politician.
Really, it doesn’t take a marketer with an MBA to realize that the slogan, “Brampton: We’ll take you to court for eating something that’s legal in the next town over,” isn’t the greatest hook for tourists.
Of course, there has to be some justification for passing a conservation law other than claiming that the publicity will make Brantford into the Mecca of Mako-Lovers. So, even though WildAid Canada describes itself as a “worldwide conservation society” and not a health advocacy group, Gillies’ letter raises health concerns about the mercury content that may possibly be in some shark fins.
Gillies told Brantford’s politicians that, “Because sharks live a long time relative to other species of fish, and because they are a top predator that consumes other species of fauna, they accumulate very high levels of mercury and other toxins.”
In laymen’s terms, sharks eat fish, and live long, so one ought to worry about mercury poisoning when eating them.
Of course, the same could be said about diving ducks, whose diet is also fish (surface-feeding ducks are what are sold in grocery stores, but diving ducks are still legal to hunt, possess, and consume).
As interesting a topic as it is, the lifespan of the diving duck is simply not readily available from a Canadian wildlife management agency. However, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the State of Maine reports that the lifespan ranges from 12 to 21 years for diving ducks.
It’s hard to find a shark’s lifespan to compare to a duck’s, since shark fin soup isn’t made from any one species of shark. However, according to the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, the shortfin mako shark’s population has been affected by the quest for shark fin soup.
And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that shortfin mako sharks live 15 to 30 years—a lifespan that overlaps the diving duck’s by six years.
If the health argument is to be accepted for banning the possession of shark fin products in Ontario towns, then Ontarians can say goodbye to duck à l’orange, too. The silliness of having to point this out is more obvious when one realizes that for all of the fear mongering he put forth, Gillies did not cite a single example of a fatality caused by consuming shark fin soup in his letter.
Unfortunately, the law has now passed, and the new Brantford shark fin soup bylaw will only encourage municipal busybodies all over Ontario to turn city council buildings into taxpayer-subsidized public relations firms for environmentalist and animal rights groups.
Enjoy your duck dinner while it lasts.