Shark fin sales may continue to be legal in Burnaby if council approves a staff report tonight.
Last June, council asked staff to compile a report and make a recommendation on the issue after animal rights activists made a deliberation and held a demonstration outside city hall.
Although the staff report is in support of banning shark fin sales in principle, it states that it is not under municipal jurisdiction to regulate.
"Shark finning is considered inhumane and negatively impacting global shark populations, particularly those species designated as endangered or threatened," director of finance Denise Jorgensen states in the report. "Despite this practice, the adoption of a city bylaw to prohibit the possession, sale and trade of shark fin is not recommended."
Instead, Jorgensen said the federal government is the authority that can and should regulate a shark fin ban.
"The federal government holds responsibility for importation, fisheries and oceans," the report states. "Canadian law prohibits shark finning in our waters and also protects wildlife globally.
"To effectively regulate shark fins and stem the market supplied by shark finning, senior levels of government will need to enact prohibiting legislation."
The finance department's report will set Burnaby apart as many other municipalities across the province and country have supported shark fin bans through bylaws.
In 2011, Port Moody, North Vancouver, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam, New Westminster, White Rock, Abbottsford, Nanaimo and Toronto enacted shark fin ban bylaws.
However, Toronto's bylaw was challenged and struck down by an Ontario Superior Court ruling last November.
"Council has received ... a legal opinion regarding city authority to enact a bylaw to prohibit the sale, possession and consumption of shark fins," Jorgensen states in the report.
Staff also reviewed the actual sales and distribution that occurs within Burnaby's boundaries.
"Five restaurants and five herbal stores were found to include shark fin in their trade," according to the report. "This represents less than one per cent of both restaurants and retail stores in Burnaby."
Despite a small pocket of sales in Burnaby, the city received hundreds of e-petitions last September calling for a combined effort by Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby to prohibit shark fin sales.
Since the issue arose last summer, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has been reluctant to involve the city in a shark fin ban because he says it's beyond their scope to regulate-but not beyond the province or federal government's.
"It's not the first time municipalities have stepped into areas for symbolic purposes. Traditionally, for instance, by declaring our city a nuclear-free zone, we stepped up knowing that we didn't have any ability to prevent nuclear weapons from being brought into the country or from us being exposed to them as a result of federal politics," Corrigan said to the NOW in December. "I think municipalities have tended to exceed their jurisdictions sometimes, in order to make a point."
At tonight's council meeting, mayor and council will decide if it approves the city's recommendation to refrain from enacting a shark fin bylaw, and they will encourage the higher levels of government to step in instead.
An estimated 73 million sharks are finned every year. The fins are controversially harvested by cutting them off the shark and then dropping the animal back into the ocean to bleed to death.
Shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy and is sold at some restaurants and traditionally served at weddings.