An Ontario judge has struck down a bylaw banning the possession, sale and consumption of shark fins in Toronto.
Justice James Spence of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice made his decision Friday, saying the "highly intrusive" bylaw was outside the powers of the city.
He said it "affects the consumption by city inhabitants, in the privacy of their residences, of food products which have not been made illegal by federal or government action."
Spence said defending lawyers failed to identify any potential adverse impacts on people's health and safety or "economic, social and environmental well-being."
The application to have the ban overturned was made by Hughes Eng, Barbara Chiu, Peter Tam and Jacky Ma, four members of the Chinese business community who said the bylaw unfairly targeted their community.
But many young Asians now "won't touch" shark fin soup, and some top China and Hong Kong restaurants "have taken it off their menu" due to global opposition, said city councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who brought the motion before council last fall.
After an almost three-hour debate, they voted 38-4 to ban the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin soup and other products within city limits, effective Sept. 1, 2012.
And De Baermaeker vowed Saturday to keep fighting, saying he will urge council to appeal "all the way to the Supreme Court."
But deputy mayor Doug Holyday — one of the four who voted nay to the ban — backed the judge's ruling and said supporters of the bylaw "disregarded good staff advice," enacting a poorly worded ban that wasted taxpayers' money on legal proceedings.
Other Ontario cities — Newmarket, Mississauga, Oakville, Pickering and London — have passed similar bylaws. Toronto's fines ranged from $5,000 to $100,000 for third offences.
Canada outlawed "shark finning" in domestic waters in 1994, the U.S. in 2009, but sales continue.
Last week, the European parliament backed a blanket ban on shark finning, in which the fins are sliced off sharks, often while they are alive, and their carcasses dumped in the sea. The ban applies to all vessels in EU waters and all EU-registered vessels operating anywhere in the world
A surge in demand for shark fins, mostly for soup in Asia, has threatened various species of the predators, which have a vital role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems.
— with files from Ian Robertson and Reuters