News & Events || Latest UC news

02
Dec

Outrage over Ontario Superior Court Judge’s decision to overturn Toronto’s ban on the sale and possession of shark fin

Written by United Conservationists on Sunday, 02 December 2012 03:31.

CONTACT:

Julie Andersen: +1-917- 689 - 5927, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Toronto, Canada, December 1st, 2012 – Fin Free urges the Toronto City Council to immediately appeal Justice James Spence’s ruling against Toronto’s ban on the possession, sale, and consumption of shark fin.

On October 25, 2011, the Toronto City Council voted overwhelmingly in support of the bylaw (38-4), following suit with several other municipalities across Ontario and several states in the US. Since then, the Fin Free movement has spread internationally as well as Canada-wide, where similar bans have been adopted or proposed throughout British Columbia and Alberta.

The passage of Toronto’s shark-fin bylaw satisfies two key sections of the City of Toronto Act; including section 8(2)(5) respecting, “[e]conomic, social and environmental well-being of the City”, and section 8(2)(6) respecting, “[h]ealth, safety and well-being of persons”. Despite this,
FARGA - an organization developed to fight shark fin bans  - alongside four members of the Chinese business community, funded and organized an appeal to strike down Toronto’s bylaw, heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on November 5th. Subsequently, Justice James Spence declared Toronto’s ban as invalid based on the City’s perceived lack of power as it pertains to the enforcement of such a bylaw. The four individuals challenging the ban claimed that the bylaw unfairly targets the Chinese Community, which often notes incorrectly that the shark fins are obtained legally and do not come from endangered shark species.

According to Rob Stewart, director of the award winning Sharkwater and co-leader of Fin Free, “We are extremely disappointed in Justice Spence’s ruling, and urge the City of Toronto to initiate an immediate appeals process against his shortsighted decision. I believe that municipalities have both the jurisdiction and the responsibility towards its’ residents to enact and enforce such by-laws given the implications of shark finning and the consumption of shark fin.”

Consuming shark fin is dangerous due to the high levels of mercury present in sharks. As large predators, sharks can have concentrations of mercury that are 10,000 times higher than their surrounding waters. A dangerous neurotoxin to humans, risks associated with mercury consumption are plentiful are include; damage to the developing brain of the fetus resulting in mental disabilities; interference with a child’s brain development; increased incidence of autism in children exposed to mercury; increased risk of heart disease; low sperm count and even sterility in men; numerous neurological problems, and others.

As apex predators, sharks are also critically important to ocean health and maintaining its’ fragile balance. Recent studies indicate that regional elimination of sharks can cause disastrous effects further down the food chain including the collapse of fisheries and the death of coral reefs. The rampant demand for shark fin is the leading cause of the dramatic decline in shark populations globally, many of which are caught illegally. In 2006, Dr. Shelley Clarke’s analysis of shark fin markets in Hong Kong estimated that upwards of 73 million sharks are being killed each year for the largely unregulated shark fin trade. Currently, one third of all pelagic sharks are threatened with extinction, and half of the shark species targeted by commercial fisheries are threatened. Even though the City of Toronto is geographically distant from ocean waters, the demand for shark fin soup in the City exacerbates the often illegal trade. Studies indicate up to half of those sharks are caught illegally.

Fin Free operates on a positive and balanced set of guiding principles, and encourages collaboration and citizen empowerment. We work internationally without prejudice towards race, color, nationality, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or gender. Fin Free promotes the message that shark finning cannot be blamed on a single community, culture or country, but rather that it is a global issue we are all equally responsible for; either via demand, supply, or consumption. We believe communities everywhere can and should work together to affect positive change. By banning the sale and possession of shark fin products in our cities, we are ensuring that we don’t support the shark trade – much of which is illegal and fueled by the high demand for shark fins only.

“It is our hope the City of Toronto will appeal Justice James Spence’s ruling immediately and urge the citizens of Toronto to take a stand. Banning shark fins is the only effective way to quickly stop an unsustainable, often illegal and inhumane world practice with far reaching ramifications,” says Julie Andersen, founder of Shark Angels and co-leader of Fin Free. “I have personally witnessed the devastation and unsustainable destruction of this industry around the world during the last five years and desperately urge City leadership to act in favor of not just the sharks but its citizens. This isn't a cultural issue - it is a world issue.”


Media Contact: Julie Andersen, +1.917.689.5972, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

15
Oct

Rob Stewart’s Revolution; Audience Choice for Most Popular Environmental Film

Written by United Conservationists on Monday, 15 October 2012 22:00.

Toronto - October 15th 2012

Revolution has won Best Documentary at the Atlantic Film Festival and was a Best Documentary runner up at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as being the highest-rated Canadian documentary. Now Rob's Revolution has won Best Environment Film Documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival. VIFF will show the new documentary for a 4th time thanks to such a overwhelming reception. See the details below:

The next showing in Vancouver is on October 18th at 7:00 pm at the Vancity Theatre. Click here to buy tickets!

Check out some praise, interviews and articles for Revolution:

The Tyee- Rob Stewart's Mission to Save the Humans

Hill Times - Stewart's on a New Mission to Help Save Humanity

Vancouver Sun - Director Rob Stewart Wades into Murky Waters

 

15
May

Sharkwater film by Rob Stewart proof Sea Shepherd Captain innocent

Written by United Conservationists on Tuesday, 15 May 2012 17:11.

TORONTO – Filmmaker Rob Stewart joins the global call to free Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd, after German officials decided to extradite him to Costa Rica. Stewart has now released video evidence from his documentary Sharkwater to prove Watson’s innocence.

Captain Paul Watson was arrested in Germany, May 12, 2012 for an international warrant for his arrest. The arrest is based on allegations of violating “ships traffic” in Guatemalan waters, after a clash in 2002 between fishermen on the ship Varadero who were illegally poaching sharks and the Sea Shepherd crew intercepting. The incident resulted in the fishermen accusing Captain Watson of attempted murder.

The event took place during the filming of Rob Stewart’s award-winning documentary Sharkwater, released in 2007. Sharkwater is credited with legislation banning the ownership and sale of shark fins in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Guam, Saipan and many other regions. Stewart says his film disproves the accusations; a released clip of the incident is made available here (credit Sharkwater).

“It was an accidental collision,” said Toronto filmmaker Rob Stewart, who witnessed the altercation. “There was no attempt to harm any human life. However, the arrest of Paul Watson shows that there is a bigger problem afoot, that after ten years sharks continue to be unprotected.”

Shark finning is an often illegal-practice, whereby sharks are killed for their fins, the key ingredient in shark fin soup, a popular dish in the Asian market. In just a few decades, some shark populations have declined by over 95 per cent, and their populations continue to plummet.

“This is a great injustice, as sharks play a vital role to the health of our marine ecosystems,” said Stewart. “That is why I founded United Conservationists, a collaborative global response to sustain the ecosystems we depend on. If the sharks and humans are to survive the challenges ahead, we must build a global movement,” said Stewart.

Stewart is currently editing his new movie, Revolution, which features the issue of shark finning as well as many other critical environmental issues.

Media Clips: To view Sharkwater on iTunes: http://vimeo.com/42171668

Canadian Link

U.S. link

German link

Photo Gallery: http://www.sharkwater.com/gallery.htm

Media Clips: Vimeo*

*Credit “Sharkwater”

Photo Gallery: Sharkwater.com

27
Mar

Newmarket Goes Fin Free

Written by United Conservationists on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 22:26.

With a landslide vote of 8 -1 the Town Council of Newmarket voiced to Canada and the world that they cared about our future and wanted a world with sharks in it.  Another 80,000 residents of Ontario were added to the rapidly growing number of people who now live in a shark fin free world, when this past Monday the by-law in Newmarket was voted into effect.

The councilors agreed with the hard work of the team from United Conservationists and Fin Free Newmarket that sharks need our protection, and have overwhelmingly stated that this was their way to help, putting pressure on the federal government to legislate a Canada wide ban.  Councillor John Taylor said that it was only through municipalities such as Newmarket making statements like this, that the message would be carried through to the federal level.

Sarah Samwel, local Newmarket resident and lead campaigner for Fin Free Newmarket was delighted with the result and said she was immensely happy and thrilled with the turnout of people who came to support Fin Free and sharks at the meeting and thanked United Conservationists everywhere for their support.  Many councilors indicated that it was through constant emails/calls as well as viewing the movie, Sharkwater, that they realized how important this vote was to the plummeting population of sharks everywhere.

This important by-law will make it illegal for shark fin and shark fin products, most often used in shark fin soup,  to be possessed and sold anywhere in the town of Newmarket,  joining the other leading municipalities of Toronto, Brantford, Mississauga, Oakville, Pickering, and London who have all shown their support on the issue and recently banned shark fin. 

Fin Free is now a worldwide campaign addressing the issue of the mass slaughter of sharks to supply growing consumer demand for shark fin.  We believe that in order to protect sharks and ensure their survival, governments must get involved and institute legislation banning the sale and trade of shark fin.

The topic of shark fining is quickly heating up and being debated around the world. The award winning film Sharkwater, by United Conservationists Rob Stewart, has been the catalyst for the international Fin Free movement and is helping to create environmental reform in over 30 countries. “With up to 73,000,000 sharks killed each year for their fins, a collaborative global response is desperately needed,” said Stewart.  In just a few decades, some regional shark populations have declined by over 95%, and their populations continue to plummet.

With local municipalities sending the message out to the world that we will not sit idly by and watch sharks die,  pressure to change peoples way of thinking is increasingly working and ourselves and future generations will see the benefits.  Well done Newmarket, for having the courage and compassion to care about the future,  you did a great thing!

Newmarket Goes Fin Free from United Conservationists on Vimeo. With a landslide vote of 8 -1 the Town Council of Newmarket voiced to Canada and the world that they cared about our future and wanted a world with sharks in it. Another 80,000 residents of Ontario were added to the rapidly growing number of people who now live in a shark fin free world, when, on March 26th, the by-law in Newmarket was voted into effect. Thank you to United Conservationists and Fin Free Newmarket - a job well done! Read all about it! http://www.unitedconservationists.org/united-conservationists-news/166-newmarket-finfree.html

Newmarket Goes Fin Free from United Conservationists on Vimeo. With a landslide vote of 8 -1 the Town Council of Newmarket voiced to Canada and the world that they cared about our future and wanted a world with sharks in it. Another 80,000 residents of Ontario were added to the rapidly growing number of people who now live in a shark fin free world, when, on March 26th, the by-law in Newmarket was voted into effect. Thank you to United Conservationists and Fin Free Newmarket - a job well done! Read all about it! http://www.unitedconservationists.org/united-conservationists-news/166-newmarket-finfree.html

13
Mar

Richard Branson goes Fin Free

Written by United Conservationists on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 19:19.

United Conservationists are pleased to have the support of Sir Richard Branson in their fight against shark finning and undertaking to get bans in place to stop the sale and possession of shark fins in Canada.

On Tuesday, March 6th, Richard Branson tweeted that he was heading to Canada to help get a blanket ban on the killing of sharks for shark fin soup. A long-time shark advocate, Branson has gotten on board the “Fin Free” campaign, spearheaded by award-winning filmmaker and eco-hero, Rob Stewart founder of United Conservationists.

It was Stewart’s highly acclaimed, award-winning documentary, Sharkwater, that ignited Branson’s passion to save sharks, and on January 15th Branson said “The films I really enjoy are films with a meaning or purpose like Sharkwater, which explores the misunderstood world of sharks, and while beautify and thrilling, also exposes corruption and exploitation surrounding the world’s shark populations. It was such a powerful film that now I’m trying to stop shark finning around the globe.” Indeed Sharkwater has educated millions of people about the plight of sharks and inspired a global movement to save them.

Richard Branson swims with Sharks to Support FIN FREE!

Richard Branson stated his support for the campaign and said "All of my businesses are Fin Free - and I support the movement to make the world fin free. With shark populations plummeting, banning the sale, trade and consumption of fins in communities around the world is one of the best ways to help stop the demand for fins and in turn, protect the world's remaining sharks. I encourage other leaders and businesses to take similar actions towards saving sharks - an animal critical to the health of our oceans."

The Fin Free movement, supported by other conservation groups such as WildAid and Shark Truth, has resulted in recent landmark legislation in Toronto, Brantford, Mississauga, Oakville, Pickering, and London banning the sale and possession of shark fin, with over 10% of Canadian residents now living in municipalities in which shark fin is now illegal. It is hoped that proposed legislation will soon make Canada the largest country in the world to ban the import of shark fins, decreasing demand and giving shark populations a much needed chance to recover. The fin free movement has been gaining momentum and has gone global with Fin Free Singapore, Taipei, New York, and Australia forming, and the help and backing of businesses and leaders like Richard Branson will ensure it continues to grow and make further impact.

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