Shark fin sales will continue to be legal in Burnaby as council approved a staff report on Monday night, recommending against a shark fin ban.
Last June, council asked staff to compile a report and make a recommendation on the issue after animal rights activists appeared as a delegation 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 fin-ning, senior levels of government will need to enact prohibiting legislation."
The report also notes how the Community Charter has no provisions outlining that city staff can seize products for analysis and verification, which would be necessary after many treatments render the fin unidentifiable.
"Enforcement of a bylaw banning shark fin will be ineffective due to a lack of local authority to seize samples, the current level of success in identifying shark with DNA analysis and the inability of the DNA analysis to identify fin," the report states. "A bylaw would likely have some effect as an educational tool although any public expectations for enforcement could not be met."
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 the last two years, Port Moody, North Vancouver, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam, New Westminster, White Rock, Abbotsford, 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 its scope to regulate - but not beyond the province or federal government's.
Everyone agrees the practice of shark finning is inhumane, Corrigan said at Monday night's council meeting, but "our powers are limited".
Council said it will monitor the situation in Toronto because that city may appeal the shark fin ruling. If the appeal is successful, it could set a precedent in giving municipalities more power.
"I hope the Toronto situation changes," Coun. Dan Johnston said Monday night. "I hope citizens out there think twice before eating shark fin soup."
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.