Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is calling for a ban on the possession and trade of shark fins in Canada.

May, the MP for B.C.'s Saanich-Gulf Islands, held a press conference Monday to denounce the controversial yet common practice. Shark fin soup, considered a delicacy in Chinese culture, can be found in restaurants all over the world, including Vancouver.

"The shark populations of this planet's oceans are declining so rapidly that it constitutes an emergency," said May.

She urged attendees to sign a petition that she plans to present to the House of Commons.

The Green Party leader is not the first Canadian politician to urge for a ban on shark fins. Brantford, Ontario, passed Canada's first shark fin soup ban in May, and nearby Oakville followed suit two months later.

Toronto has proposed a ban for shark fin soup in city restaurants, but has received backlash from the Toronto Chinese Business Association.

The process of harvesting the fins is a violent one. After being captured, shark fins are sliced off while the animal is still alive. It is then dumped back into the ocean with fatal injuries, according to Shark Truth founder Claudia Li.

Shark fin soup is believed to have health benefits, such as increasing appetite and improving kidney, bone and lung health. Some believe it increases sexual potency.

It is commonly served at weddings and is considered a sign of wealth in Chinese culture. Depending on the grade, bowls of shark fin soup can cost anywhere from $50 to $3000.

But despite the long-lasting tradition, Li said there needs to be a change.

"I think there are other things that we can use to show off in our culture and this is one of the things we need to let go of," said Li, who is of Chinese descent.

It is estimated that over 70 million sharks are killed each year for their fins. According to Greenpeace, the overfishing could also have detrimental results on the world's oceans. Many shark species are top predators and their eating habits keep the structure and composition of the marine ecosystem in balance, according to its website.

In the United States, Hawaii has banned the controversial dish and California is gearing up for a battle with a proposed ban.

In 2006, Chinese basketball superstar and NBA great, Yao Ming, spoke out against the hunting of sharks for their fins. Ming swore off shark fin soup and appeared in a WildAid PSA to raise awareness on the practice.