Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act

An Act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act (importation of shark fins)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Fin Donnelly  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of March 27, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Fish Inspection Act to prohibit the importation of shark fins in Canada. It also amends the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning, thereby establishing a legislative prohibition.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 27, 2013 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

February 11th, 2013 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start my speech in this new year of the snake by wishing you and all my colleagues a happy year of the snake. Chuc mung nam moi.Xin nian kuai le kung hei fat choi.

I would like to thank my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam, who introduced this bill. I would also like to thank him for all the groundwork he has done to convince many people of the merit of this bill, which is important to me. I believe we should all support it.

I would like to explain why I am giving my full support to this bill and why it is so important to me. I am a certified scuba diving supervisor and instructor. Unfortunately, since being elected I no longer have the time for it. When I taught the “open water” level to beginners, I talked about the importance of preserving our environment, especially the marine flora.

I also showed them the documentary Sharkwater, which was filmed by a Canadian and, I believe, won 31 international prizes. It is a beautiful film that provides a simple explanation of the problem of shark finning. It also provides insight into the impact of the phenomenon on the shark population and the reason for this fishing practice.

I cannot help but talk about my Asian heritage. I grew up eating shark fin soup. However, things are changing. The new generation supports this bill, and I will talk about this a little later. Things are changing and I believe it is important for parliamentarians to make that change happen.

After going on a dive and returning to the boat, having had the chance to see a real live shark, which is truly a pleasure, everyone on the boat will have a smile.They will talk about how amazing the creature is, how important it is, and how privileged we are to be able to swim with it. A lot of people have seen Jaws, but that is Hollywood. In real life it is a beautiful creature and an important creature because it keeps our ecosystem in equilibrium.

One thing that is really important to point out is that a tremendous number of sharks are being killed just for their fins; I repeat, just for their fins. The people are not eating shark steak. My colleague mentioned the price of fins versus the price of meat. The reason we do not eat shark meat is that a shark is the apex predator and it contains a lot of mercury. I do not hear about a lot of people eating shark steak.

The real problem is that sharks are often finned alive. Why are we doing this, just taking their fins? In my community, in the Chinese and Vietnamese community, it is important to treat guests well. At a wedding, for instance, guests are brought shark fin soup. The soup might taste really good, but it is not because of the shark fins but because of the pork broth or chicken broth, which gives it taste. Shark fin has no taste. It is a cartilage and it has no nutritional value. It is basically just a question of prestige.

My colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam mentioned that he has approached a lot of kids and people in different communities. It is really important for them because there is a difference between the value and the fact that they want the banquet to look good for others. It is not necessary to do that. Even the Chinese government has realized that. A lot of hotel chains have started banning shark fin soup.

If we think about it, it is not really a matter of culture.

I heard government members say that we were targeting Chinese and Asian cultures. That is not true. Cultures and traditions evolve. I am part of a new generation. I have spoken to many people. We believe that we must maintain our roots and evolve at the same time.

I therefore urge my colleagues to support this bill, which is very important for future generations.

An often-used example is ivory from endangered species. Ivory was harvested, just as shark fins are now.

I heard my colleagues say that we should focus on certain fins. A 2012 CTV report revealed that, out of 59 shark fins from which DNA samples were taken, 76% were from endangered species. So even though cutting shark fins is not allowed at the moment, the reality is that, in practice, it would be nearly impossible for inspectors to conduct DNA tests to figure out where every fin is coming from.

If my colleague had watched the film Sharkwater, he would also know that there is a massive black market. It is completely illegal. How do we implement the checks? Where do the fins come from? Do they come from a country that does not ban this type of shark-fin cutting, which is often done while the shark is alive? How can we truly know that the fins are not from the black market? That is the problem and that is what the bill is trying to address.

My Liberal colleague has said that he wants the bill to go to committee so that it can be studied and amendments can be made. We completely agree. Unlike another party, we are open to amendments and discussion. The goal is to fix a problem, namely shark finning. It creates an imbalance in nature and marine life. What is more, it is unnecessary.

My colleague mentioned tuna. If we apply this principle to shark fins, should we apply it to tuna as well? They are completely different situations. We are talking about the practice of killing a shark to take its fin and use it in a traditional dish. Unfortunately, this does little other than add to the cost. We have already seen what will happen if this practice continues. There is already an imbalance in nature, in the protection of marine life.

If my colleague wanted to protect fish, he would know that taking sharks out of the system creates an underwater imbalance. We are talking about protection and, as a scuba diver, it affects me greatly. Future generations need to be able to see sharks. In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature stated that one-third of shark species were endangered because of this trade.

This is a real problem. Every year, 73 million sharks are killed. That is a stupefying number. If we do nothing, future generations will pay the price, and I am not talking only about the students who are already in school. There is a great public outcry. I am sure that my colleagues have received emails about this issue, and maybe even some tweets.

I think we have to listen to what the next generation is saying. They are saying, “Protect the sharks; keep them for the next generations”. If we are not doing anything now and we know the reason for bringing in shark fins is simply a question of prestige, at one point we have to react.

We know that the regulations in place are not doing the job right now. This is why we have to move forward.

There is a tremendous amount of support from the communities, from scuba divers and even from the Chinese community.

I would like to thank Veronica Kwan from La Maison Kam Fung in Brossard, in my riding, who is aware of the issue and supports the bill. I would also like to thank Canada's branch of Humane Society International, which has done a lot of work on this issue.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

February 11th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, again, I want to thank the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for bringing this important issue to the attention of this House.

I think I can safely say that every member of this House, as do I, thinks the practice of shark finning is an awful thing. It involves the removal of the shark's fin while it is still alive and discarding the rest of the animal into the sea to die of suffocation or predation. We all agree that this is deplorable. Where we might disagree is on how to deal with the issue of shark finning, and I am not yet convinced that Bill C-380 is the way.

To remind hon. members, the bill proposes to amend two federal acts: the Fish Inspection Act, to prohibit the importation of shark fins; and the Fisheries Act, to prohibit the practice of shark finning in Canada. As my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, has spoken on the Fish Inspection Act, I will focus primarily on the changes proposed to the Fisheries Act.

Bill C-380 calls for amendments to the Fisheries Act to ban the practice of shark finning. However, the bill attempts to fix something that is not broken. Shark finning is banned in Canada and has been for almost two decades. In fact, the practice of finning has been banned in Canada since 1994, through licensing conditions under the fishery general regulations. That ban applies to Canadian fishery waters as well as licensed Canadian vessels fishing outside of our territorial waters.

Shark fishing in Canada is governed by sustainable management plans that include strong enforcement regimes to ensure that finning does not occur in Canadian fisheries, and these apply to all shark fisheries in Canadian waters. Indeed, only a few shark species are harvested in Canada, including spiny dogfish, porbeagle shark, shortfin mako shark and blue shark. These harvests are carefully managed based on the best scientific advice, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is allowed to monitor shark populations in order to ensure their conservation. The shark fishery in Canada is highly regulated, with rigorous dockside monitoring. In fact, Canada maintains the first and only shark fishery in the world to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

As mentioned, in 1994, due to rising concerns over the practice, the Canadian government prohibited shark finning. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was given the ability to do this under section 7 of the Fisheries Act, which sets out the minister's authority to issue leases and licences for fisheries or fishing. Section 22 of the regulations provides the minister with specific authority to set out targeted licence conditions for the proper management and control of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish. These provisions provide the minister with the authority to impose measures to eliminate shark finning as a licence condition.

Therefore, the regulations already allow the minister to impose, as a licence condition, measures to eliminate shark finning, which has been done. Today, all licence holders for Canadian shark fisheries and for fisheries where sharks are landed as bycatch are subject to licence conditions that prohibit them from engaging in shark finning. Why try to reinvent the wheel with Bill C-380?

The ban is enforced through a number of different internationally accepted methods across Canada. One approach requires that the number of fins correspond with the number of shark carcasses landed by shark fishing vessels. Under a second and more common approach, the number of fins on shark fishing vessels cannot exceed 5% of the overall weight of carcasses onboard when it lands. Both methods are intended to ensure that sharks are not being caught solely for their fins.

All licensed shark fishing vessels in Canada are subject to 100% monitoring to ensure this ratio is respected. Any violation of a licence condition is an offence under the Fisheries Act. Penalties for those found to be in contravention of their conditions of licence range from warnings, to prosecution, to requests for a court-imposed licence suspension and quota penalties, to loss of the privilege to renew the licence.

These measures were put in place to ensure Canada's shark fishery conforms to sustainable harvesting practices. It is a very practical approach and it has worked well. There has been only one minor breach in recent years; otherwise shark finning has not been an issue in Canadian fisheries. I would also add that Canada's approach is an internally accepted standard within regional fisheries management organizations.

While the bill is flawed, there are other ways to address the issue. For example, the proposed amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act would provide new tools for Canadian officials to seize shipments of fish products that have been caught illegally, such as shark fins. The proposed revisions to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act currently being reviewed by the Senate, as Bill S-13, would provide the legislative authority for Canada to prevent the import of fish products from illegal sources. Additionally, Canada has worked with other countries to put an end to this practice. The Government of Canada will continue to work with our international partners to ensure sustainable management of sharks, including the prohibition of the practice of finning.

Globally, Canada promotes the sustainable management and conservation of sharks through international organizations, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and regional fisheries management bodies, such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. There are also a number of international agreements, to which Canada is a party, which govern the conservation management and trade of certain at-risk shark species. For instance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, usually called CITES, protects the great white shark, and basking and whale sharks. Imports of any of these shark species, or any of their parts, into Canada is only permissible if accompanied by an export permit from the country of origin that certifies the imported shark, or products derived from it, was caught in a scientifically proven sustainable fishery.

Furthermore, proposals have been submitted to have three more added, at the sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties convention to be held in March.

To summarize, Canada has taken action against the deplorable practice of illegal shark finning. This practice has been banned in Canada since 1994. Canada believes that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong management and enforcement practices globally is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices, such as finning. A complete trade ban would penalize responsible legitimate fishing practices without addressing overfishing practices or improving global fisheries management. We will continue to support responsible, legal shark harvesters and crack down on those who break the rules.

Given the above, the government cannot support the private member's bill, Bill C-380.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

February 11th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate, for a short period of time, in this important debate.

Let me first add my words of congratulations to the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for bringing in Bill C-380. The member has recognized there is a problem that exists in this country, and that in fact there is a problem that exists globally, with respect to this issue of the illegal trade in shark fins. He has said he is going to do something about it.

The member has been talking to Canadians, municipalities, members of this House and school children, and people support what he is talking about. We have heard members on all sides in this House say that they too agree the international trade in shark fins is deplorable. The practice of shark finning is deplorable. We have heard everyone agree with that.

However, the only one who has come forward with a plan to stop the problem is the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had all kinds of excuses as to why the Conservatives are not going to support our attempt to ban the illegal trade in shark fins.

Let me highlight one point that the parliamentary secretary made, and that is the work the government is doing in international co-operation with other groups and organizations, be they regional or otherwise. One example is ICCAT, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which has held meetings recently to deal with issues of tuna conservation but also the subsequent impact of that fishery on the porbeagle shark.

In 2008, a joint ICCAT-ICES assessment for the northeast Atlantic population of porbeagle gave the following advice:

Given the state of the stock, no targeted fishing for porbeagle should be permitted and by-catch should be limited and landings of porbeagle should not be allowed.

The EU and that committee then went on to set limits on the total allowable catches. In 2012, at ICCAT meetings in Morocco, the only country that objected to a ban on the fishing of the porbeagle shark, which is facing extinction, was Canada. This is one shark that is not included on the list right now because of the work that Canada has been doing. To suggest we can solve the illegal trade in shark fins across the world and deal with the impact of conservation on sharks and the devastation on the marine ecosystem through existing agreements and existing relationships is simply fanciful.

My colleague has said, with the support of his colleagues in his caucus, and I believe I heard some support from the Liberal caucus, that we should bring this bill forward, pass it at second reading, move it to committee and have a good discussion. If we agree, and we have heard everyone say they do, and Canadians by the thousands are reporting that they want this practice stopped, then let us move this bill, which is the first attempt in this Parliament to begin to deal with the problem, into committee. Let us deal with it once and for all.

Let us make a commitment on behalf of Canadians and on behalf of our marine ecosystem, on behalf of those who recognize the fact that we need to step up and stop the illegal trade in shark fins. We need to stop this practice, so let us actually do something about it.

I understand that my time has come to a close. I want to urge all members of the House to vote in support of Bill C-380 and to do something about this deplorable practice of shark finning.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation ActRoutine Proceedings

December 8th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-380, An Act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act (importation of shark fins).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the bill, an act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act (importation of shark fins). I would like to thank the member for Vancouver East for seconding the bill.

The bill would amend the Fish Inspection Act to prohibit the importation of shark fins into Canada, and would make into law a prohibition on shark finning in Canadian waters.

Sharks are top predators and play a key role in maintaining ocean health. Their populations are plummeting around the world. Scientists report that up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, often by finning, a horrific practice in which the fins are severed from the shark and the shark's body is discarded at sea.

In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that over one-third of all shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of shark finning.

The best way to curb illegal finning is to stop the international trade in shark fins. Canada can become a world leader in shark conservation and ocean stewardship by adopting legislation to protect sharks.

I hope all members of the House will support this legislation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)