Shark Savers Canada: Toronto Dragon Boat Race Festival

Posted on July 6, 2011
Written by: Judson Chiu - Shark Savers Canada

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Shark Savers Canada successfully held its first event June 25th and 26th at the 23rd Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival. The event was held at the 230 acre Toronto Centre Islands. The beautiful park with its pristinely manicured gardens, together with the excitement of the Dragon Boat races with athletes competing from around the world, provided the perfect backdrop for Shark Savers to start spreading its message in Canada.

Dragon Boat Race History

The origins of the Dragon Boat race come from the legendary Chinese statesman and poet Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was once a trusted advisor during the Warring States period in China (475-221 BC), but due to corruption he was banished by the emperor. During his exile, Qu Yuan would write some of the greatest poetry in Chinese literature. When Qu Yuan learned of an invasion by a neighboring power driven by corrupt officials, he tied himself to a rock and swam into the Miluo River. Fisherman and citizens, seeing his ritual suicide as protest, hurried to save him in fishing boats. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles in order to keep the fish and evil spirits from devouring Qu’s body. Many generations have since commemorated Qu Yuan's sacrifice by racing in the Dragon Boat Festival each year during the month of this passing.

Shark Savers at the Festival

This year's event in Toronto was well attended; line-ups at the ferry that brings guests to the island had wait times of up to an hour. An estimated 80,000 people attended the races over the weekend, many of whom stopped by at the Shark Savers booth.Shark Savers volunteers worked passionately to mix and mingle among the crowds; passing out pamphlets that discussed the issues of shark's fin soup and ocean ecology. Also, volunteers were great at corralling people towards our booth area to participate in our "I Pledge" campaign. Many attendees stopped to watch our videos that included the Shark Savers PSA with Yao Ming as well as our I Pledge campaigns videos in Cantonese and English. It was great to see so many young people and athletes that were interested in our organization, asking great questions and gathering a real understanding and appreciation of the sustainability issues surrounding shark's fin soup consumption. It was noted by our volunteers that although many attendees did not stop at our booth, seeing our presence had stirred conversation and lead to many people discussing the issue amongst their family, which is an excellent and positive sign.

Pledges, Guests and Thanks

In all, Shark Savers gathered over 130 pledges from participants and touched over 2000 people. The Shark Savers hand puppets were also a great hit, especially the Hammerhead shark. Some special guests of the booth included; a journalist from Mingpao, the highest circulated Chinese newspaper in Toronto, a marine biologist, an executive from Hi-Liner the large seafood manufacturer and also many volunteers from the event working for the Toronto Chinese Business Association. We also had the fortune of meeting many energetic young individuals who are now part of the Shark Savers Canada volunteer list. Welcome!

Shark Savers would like to thank our amazing volunteers; Jenna, Giorgina, Olivier, Maria, Joanna, Jason, Todd, Blair, Ginny and Alicia!

Overall the event was an amazing launching pad for the Shark Savers Canada group to spring towards future events and presentations. All of the photos from the event are posted on Facebook:

What's Next

Shark Savers Canada will hold our next event at the T&T Waterfront Night Market, July 21-24th, 2011. We expect it to be another great opportunity for Shark Savers Canada to reach the community and stop the consumption of shark fin soup.