News / Calgary

Calgary shark fin bylaw put on hold indefinitely

City council voted Monday to set aside indefinitely its controversial shark fin bylaw after several aldermen who initially supported the idea changed their minds in the wake of legal concerns and the sometimes vitriolic public debate.

Invoking a rarely used "sine die" designation – which is Latin for "without date" – council didn't completely kill the bylaw but essentially shelved it with no specific plan to bring it back.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the bylaw could theoretically return if a majority of the new city council votes in favour of reconsidering it after the October municipal election. Prior to the election that would take a two-thirds vote, the mayor noted, according to the rules of "sine die."

Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart said she was supportive of exploring the shark-fin bylaw at first but now thinks it's time for council to abandon the idea.

"This has become a firestorm," she said. "I just think it's time for us to back away."

Ald. Jim Stevenson agreed. While he still believes the practice of shark finning is horrible, he said it's time for council to "take whatever steps we need to do to abandon the bylaw."

Other aldermen, however, wanted to continue down the path toward enacting the bylaw (which so far has only received first reading) and continue supporting the volunteer Shark Fin Task Force council convened to study the issue in further detail.

"I think it would be a really unfortunate thing if we brought together this task force and then didn't implement the recommendations," Ald. Druh Farrell said.

Ald. Gord Lowe was also opposed to changing course, saying it would amount to "neutering the task force's work."

But Nenshi said the task force's work won't be in vain and will, in fact, continue.

"The bylaw will go away for now while the task force tries to think about alternative methodology," he said. "The task force will continue its work."

Ingrid Kuenzel of Shark Fin Free Calgary said she was "caught off guard" and disappointed by council's move, which she described as lacking political courage.

"Once again Calgary has chosen to take the path of least resistance and is failing to lead environmentally when we had an opportunity to," she said.

Kuenzel, who also sits on the city's Shark Fin Task Force, said one positive outcome from her point of view is that the attention generated from the debate in Calgary has led to more awareness of the issue and prompted some restaurants to voluntarily go shark-fin free.

But, she added, there is a "dire" need to do more – and soon.

"The species are still being slaughtered at an unsustainable rate," Kuenzel said.

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