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.


Fin Donnelly  NDP

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


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


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.


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.


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

Port State Measures Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2015 / 1:35 p.m.
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Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure and privilege to rise to speak to this legislation, Bill S-3.

As I indicated in my question to the member who spoke before me, I am disappointed by the fact that it has taken so long for this piece of legislation to work its way through the process. It was introduced in the Senate. It should not have been introduced in the Senate to begin with; it should have come through the House of Commons. Instead of slipping it in through the back door, it should have been dealt with here first by the elected representatives of Canadians.

The member suggested that Canada has a significant coastline. Canada has the longest coastline in the world. There are also important ocean nurseries, such as Georges Bank and Lancaster Sound. I am continually frustrated by the lack of leadership that the government shows on issues like this, issues that deal with our fishery, oceans, ocean health and the ocean ecosystem. The Conservatives committed to another international agreement through the UN that 10% of our coastal ecosystem in marine-protected areas would be protected by the year 2020. There is not a hope, if we continue at this pace, that we are ever going to achieve that commitment.

Luckily, as a result of the election that is about to be upon us, on October 19, a New Democrat government is going to start putting things in place to make sure that commitment is fulfilled and that 10% of our coastal ecosystem in marine-protected areas is protected by 2020. It can be done; it just requires the will. New Democrats will show the Conservatives how that is done.

Before I get into the significance of the bill and the lack of leadership we have seen by the government, another important issue is the government's failure to support my colleague's bill, Bill C-380, on shark finning. The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has worked tirelessly on this issue. He has worked tirelessly on it because it is important. It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins alone. He worked with members on all sides of the House to get their support, and it was close, but too many members on the government side bailed. They would not stand up. They said they were going to bring in stronger enforcement against shark finning, but that simply has not happened. That is another example of the lack of leadership on this important issue by the government.

I will not forget to mention that the government has cut funds for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard by well over $100 million over the last couple of years in the area of science and enforcement. It has been one thing after another. Frankly, it is laughable when members opposite stand and talk about the leadership role that they play in fisheries management and protecting the oceans. As I have suggested, they do not contribute in any way in a leadership role on the issue of healthy oceans internationally.

Turning to Bill S-3, the bill was last debated in the House in February 2014. I do not know why that is. We had two committee meetings to deal with it, so it was not the committee that held it up, that is for sure. As it was, we only dealt with a few technical amendments and then voted to pass it on.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing continues to be a very important global issue. It affects not only the health of our ocean's ecosystem and issues of conservation of stock management, but it also affects our economy.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a major contributor to declining fish stocks and marine habitat destruction. Globally, IUU fishing takes many forms, both within nationally controlled waters and on the high seas. We know that it further threatens marine ecosystems, puts food security and regional stability at risk, and is linked to major human rights violations and organized crime.

While it is not known for sure how much IUU fishing is taking place, it is estimated that IUU fishing accounts for about 30% of all fishing activity worldwide. The worldwide value placed on IUU catches is somewhere between $4 billion and $9 billion a year. Approximately $1.25 billion of this illegally captured fish is thought to be taken from the high seas, with the remainder fished illegally within the 200-mile limit of coastal states. The overall impact on the global economy, however, is valued much higher, in the area of $23.5 billion.

As members would expect, illegal fishing is most prevalent where governance measures to manage fisheries are the weakest, which explains why developing countries are the hardest hit by IUU fishing. An estimated $1 billion in IUU fishing happens in the coastal waters of sub-Saharan Africa each year.

Strong governance of the high seas through regional fisheries management organizations is integral to reducing illegal fishing activities. The bill before us would help ensure that IUU fish do not make it onto the Canadian market and would provide disincentives for black market fish markets.

Tackling fishing on the high seas, as we have seen historically, requires large-scale international co-operation and commitment, both in terms of providing resources to implement agreed measures, such as in this case, implementing the port state measures agreement, and of coordinating efforts between relevant national and international authorities where, as I have suggested earlier, Canada should be a global leader.

Here in Canada, believe it or not, we do have fairly strong policies and enforcement to combat illegal fishing within our waters. Unfortunately, with the cutbacks to the Department of National Defence and DFO as it relates to the Coast Guard, we continue to be concerned with the ability of the government to actually carry out its enforcement responsibilities within the 200-mile limit.

I will speak for a minute about the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. It regulates foreign fishing vessels fishing in Canada, as well as harvesting sedentary species like oysters and clams on the continental shelf of Canada beyond Canadian fisheries waters. The act also extends its application to the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, NAFO, regulatory area and prohibits specific classes of foreign fishing vessels from fishing for straddling stocks. The act also prohibits fishing vessels without nationality from fishing in Canadian or NAFO waters.

As I indicated, Bill S-3 is making changes to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and enacting the international port state measures agreement that requires 25 nations to sign on in order for it to be ratified. Unfortunately, it has not reached even halfway yet.

The port state measures agreement specifically aims to prevent illegally caught fish from entering international markets through ports. Under the terms of the treaty, foreign vessels would provide advance notice and request permission for port entry. Countries would conduct regular inspections in accordance with universal minimum standards. Offending vessels would be denied use of the port or certain port services, and information sharing networks would be created.

The bill also provides regulatory power in relation to authorizing foreign fishing vessels ordered to port by their flag state to enter Canadian waters to verify compliance with law or conservation and management measures of fisheries as an organization.

The bill expands the definition of “fishing vessel”, which we have heard, to include any vessels used in the transshipment of fish or marine plants that have not been previously handled. The bill further expands the current definition of “fish” from shellfish, crustaceans and marine animals to include any part or derivative of them.

The port state measures agreement is the first global treaty focused specifically on the problem of illegally, unreported and unregulated fishing. To date, the European Union, Norway, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar have already ratified the port state measures agreement. The United States has introduced legislation, similar to Canada, in an effort to ratify the PSMA. As I indicated, in order for it to take effect internationally, it requires ratification by 25 states.

The illegal, unreported and unregulated fishery is a serious problem. It is a serious problem for the reasons that I have indicated and others. Canada needs to be at the forefront of measures like this to ensure the agreement is ratified by 25 nations. My question would be as to what Canada is doing to ensure that 25 nations actually move forward and take steps to ratify this agreement. We have not heard that in any of the debate. If the government was taking a leadership role, it would be able to give us a report on that.

Surely the government must understand. As I said earlier it has been two years since the bill was first passed in the Senate. We have had lots of time. The government has been aware of the issue. The government has been involved with this issue. I would certainly like to know, and I have not heard an explanation or a report on progress, how the other states are doing on the whole question of ratification.

When can we expect the agreement to be implemented? Will it be ignored, like the commitment to protect 10% our coastal ecosystem by 2020? Have the signatories to this agreement set a date by which they want to have the agreement ratified? Can the government report on what it is that it has done?

I and other members here have expressed some of our frustration about the lack of action on various issues relating to coastal protection and the failure of the government in so many areas relating to habitat protection.

Speaking of frustration, today in our committee we were hearing from witnesses. There was one from Alberta, the fish and wildlife society I believe it was. He talked about his frustration with the fact that the federal government is not doing enough to deal with questions of the damage to fish habitat. In fact, if I caught it correctly, he said something to the effect that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is invisible in the western provinces.

I assured the witness that now that there is an NDP government in Alberta, he has the opportunity to work with a government that understands the importance of the environment and that, once an NDP government is in place after October 19, we would address that frustration. I assured him that we would ensure there is action taken in these areas and that the federal government would not be invisible in dealing with important issues of habitat management and ecosystem destruction.

We do not have enough time on these committees to ask questions, but one of our concerns is the way that industrial expansion and the development of resources and resource extraction are taking precedence over environmental protections, taking precedence over our ability to protect important marine ecosystems, our rivers and lakes, let alone our oceans.

As members know, the government made enormous negative changes to the Fisheries Act back in 2012 and really exposed itself to this country and to many Canadians. I am in contact every day with those Canadians. They are concerned about the lack of attention that the current government is giving to fish habitat and to our ecosystems, concerned that the Conservatives are primarily concerned with resource extraction, whether that be in the moving of resources. If there is a waterway in the way—if it is a fish-bearing river or brook—the Conservatives have provided for undertakings to be granted that will basically allow them to run pipelines over these rivers and streams and through lakes. Those are the concerns that many of us have expressed and that our witness was partly expressing in his testimony today, if I may say so.

What we are looking at in our committee is the whole issue of the recreational fishery. It is an important fishery economically and culturally. However, as the representative from the Thames River in southwestern Ontario told us, if we do not have a healthy habitat and we are not able to protect and restore marine habitat, we are not going to have any fish. While we want to talk about how important the recreational fishery is to this country, we have to ensure we protect that marine and fish habitat.

It is about leadership, which I have been trying to talk a bit about. While I am pleased that this piece of legislation has come forward, I am disappointed at how long it took. I am disappointed at the fact that the current government has not been out in the forefront of ensuring that illegal, unregulated, unreported fishery stops, not in 10 years' time but now or next year.

Let us see some timelines. Let us see the government taking some action to make sure that the 25 nations, which are supposed to ratify this agreement, get it done. The Conservatives have not indicated to us whatsoever the actions they are taking to make sure they get it done.

I will be supporting this legislation. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak, and I would be happy to answer some questions.

The Conservative GovernmentStatements By Members

April 15th, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.
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José Nunez-Melo NDP Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, March 28 was a dark day for the House of Commons. On that day, three important bills were arbitrarily rejected by the Conservative caucus.

The Conservative caucus overwhelmingly voted down the good intentions of providing justice and giving the Government of Canada the opportunity to do the right thing and support some just and worthy causes. Bill C-380 would have prohibited imports of shark fins. Bill C-459 would have helped consumers, in particular air passengers. Bill C-464 would have supported Canadian mothers in the event of multiple births.

On March 28, the ignorance of our honourable government colleagues was on display again. Even worse, they failed to grasp the negative consequences for which they will be held to account in the next election.

The House resumed from March 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-380, An Act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act (importation of shark fins), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Shark FinningPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 27th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is pertinent to a vote we will have this evening on Bill C-380 to ban the importation of shark fins. Upon discussing the matter with the hon. member for Oakville, he pointed out that there are now approximately 100 million sharks a year that are killed for this practice of finning.

The petitioners in this case are from my own riding, from the islands of Pender, Galiano and Salt Spring.

Shark FinningPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 27th, 2013 / 3:45 p.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present petitions in support of Bill C-380, a bill which would stop the import of shark fins into Canada once and for all. This was introduced by my colleague, the NDP deputy Fisheries and Oceans critic.

I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of Fin Free Victoria, a group that includes students from Glenlyon Northfolk School in my riding, which has gathered thousands of signatures.

The bill will come to a vote in the House of Commons this evening and I encourage all members of this House to vote in support of the bill.

Shark FinningPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 25th, 2013 / 3:15 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have four petitions. I will present them efficiently.

The first is from petitioners primarily in the Ottawa area, calling for the end of the practice of importing, selling and distributing shark fins. I note that we will all be voting on private member's Bill C-380 later this week, and I certainly hope it will pass.


March 25th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
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Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues for participating in this second hour of debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-380, which seeks to ban the importation of shark fins to Canada and enshrine in legislation Canada's current prohibition on shark finning.

I will conclude second reading debate on this bill by addressing a few key points.

First, there is a strong need for this ban. Since the first hour of debate, an important new study has come out, authored by a group of well-respected scientists. It found approximately 100 million sharks were killed each year, although it stated that this number could range as high as 273 million, which is far above sustainable fishing levels. It concludes:

Global total shark mortality...needs to be reduced drastically in order to rebuild depleted populations and restore marine ecosystems with functional top predators.

Its findings gained international media attention for it provided further evidence that the global shark fin trade was driving the depletion and likely extinction of numerous shark species around the world.

Canada can become a world leader in shark conservation and ocean stewardship by moving forward with a shark fin import ban, which would prevent over 100 tonnes of shark fins from being imported to Canada each year.

The shark fin trade in Canada, in which currently participates, drives the horrific practice of shark finning. Many of my colleagues have spoken to that. It drives the illegal targeting of threatened and endangered species, some of which are supposed to be protected under CITES.

Earlier this year I sent each of my colleagues a DVD of the film, Sharkwater, which shows how, even in jurisdictions that have banned shark finning, organized crime drives a hugely profitable black market. In Canada recent DNA testing has proven that fins from endangered sharks are commonly imported into the country. In 2012 testing of 56 fins obtained in Vancouver and Richmond stores showed 76% came from threatened and endangered sharks. Similar results were obtained from a 2010 study.

Canada has seen numerous municipalities move forward with local bans on the sale and trade of shark fin. They are explicitly asking the federal government to also take action. There is no excuse for the government to drag its feet on this time sensitive conservation crisis.

Experts predict that if current trends continue, up to 20 shark species could be functionally extinct within this decade. In a few decades, some regional shark populations may decline over 95%.

Shark conservation is an issue about which Canadians care deeply. They recognize the grave threat posed to ocean health by the continued targeting of these important apex predators. Sharkwater filmmaker, Rob Stewart, who wrote to MPs this week in support of my bill, stated:

The removal of sharks from marine ecosystems will gravely destabilize the balance of the oceans and may lead to the eventual disappearance of other populations, including commercially caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food chain. We need to take action in order to avoid a potential ecological crisis.

I would also like to draw to the attention of my colleagues an editorial published in the Toronto Star yesterday, authored by city councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam of Toronto and Kerry Jang of Vancouver, as well as Joanna Hui, founder of the Ethical Chinese Consumers Alliance. They stated, “banning shark fins is not an attack on the Chinese culture”.

All three are leaders in the Chinese Canadian community. All three are leading efforts to halt the trade of shark finning. They also point out that in Canada and around the world, Chinese leaders are the ones leading and supporting efforts to implement bans on the shark fin trade. A poll by Environics, released last week, indicated 81% of Canadians would support a federal importation ban on shark fins.

The world has acted before to stop the targeting of elephants for their ivory and rhinos for their horns. Sharks are another example of demand for a single high-value animal part driving the unsustainable slaughter and waste of an entire animal.

It is imperative that Canada take immediate action to halt our role in the destructive and often illegal shark fin trade. The health of our oceans is at risk, as is the survival of sharks.

I ask all colleagues to support my private member's bill. Let us get this important bill before committee so that it can be thoroughly studied.


March 25th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
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Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-380, introduced by my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam. This bill would amend the Fish Inspection Act to prohibit the importation of shark fins that are not attached to the rest of the shark. It would also amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning.

This has already been mentioned a number of times today, but it is worth repeating that every year, up to 100 million sharks of all species—even endangered species—die because of shark finning and overfishing. This number far surpasses biologically sustainable levels.

Sharks are vital to the long-term health of the oceans. Their disappearance would have unforseeable consequences for the oceans, particularly for marine habitats and fisheries.

The shark fin trade is a horrific practice that involves cutting off a shark's fins on a fishing vessel and then throwing the living animal back into the ocean. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I fully support this bill. A survey carried out by Humane Society International at the beginning of 2013 showed that 81% of Canadians support prohibiting the importation of shark fins into Canada.

I have examined this issue from every angle. I see nothing but good reasons for moving forward with prohibiting the importation of shark fins.

As elected members of Parliament, our job is to represent the interests of Canadians in the House of Commons. The statistics are clear. The importation of shark fins must be banned. Mustel Group's statistics were similar to what the Humane Society of Canada came up with.

In the time I have left, I want to congratulate my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for his work on this issue. He held a number of consultations to prepare a truly balanced bill. I congratulate him on that, and I look forward to seeing the outcome of the vote, since I think this is worthwhile. We are here to protect our ecosystems. We must leave a better world for our children. I look forward to seeing how this turns out. I want to see the bill sent to committee.


March 25th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
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Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-380, introduced by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam. I thank the member for his work on this issue. I know he has been working extremely hard to move forward on this and that he has conducted extensive consultations.

There seems to be a consensus regarding this bill, except on the part of the Conservatives, who have a habit of opposing sensible legislation.

Nevertheless, I rise here today in the hopes of convincing them, since there will be a vote on this next Wednesday, if I am not mistaken. I hope we will have the support of enough members of the House to pass this bill and send it to committee.

I thought it was important for me to rise and express my support for this bill, and that of most of my NDP colleagues, at second reading here today. From what I understand, the Liberals will also be supporting it. I hope all members of that party will do so. I also hope that the Conservatives will get on board this time in order to put an end to this problem, which is affecting more and more marine ecosystems around the world. I will come back to this point a little later.

To begin with, as usual, when I study a bill, I like to see for myself exactly what is in the legislation. The bill we are studying here today is very simple. It contains two important points.

First of all, this bill amends the Fish Inspection Act. It prohibits the importation of shark fins not attached to the rest of the shark carcass. That detail is important. It is an important aspect of the legislation that I will explain in detail a little later. Second, the bill amends the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning. I support both of these very simple, sensible clauses in the bill.

The bill adds subsection 3.1(1) to section 3 of the Fish Inspection Act to prohibit the importation of fins, with some exceptions, since special permits can nevertheless be issued.

In addition, the bill also adds subsection 32.1(1) to the Fisheries Act, prohibiting the practice of shark finning and defining that practice. Those are the two amendments this bill makes.

Why are these measures important? Why did my colleague decide to introduce this bill today? The reason is very simple: we currently have a very serious problem with our oceans. Shark species are going extinct. In fact, approximately one-third of species are currently in danger of extinction. This is therefore a critical and urgent problem that we want Canada to help solve.

I know that this bill will not eliminate the problem overnight. However, at least Canada will have sent a very clear message that we are taking measures to try to reduce this practice as much as possible because we are aware of the problem that it is currently causing.

The situation is critical. We must take action to protect and preserve our marine ecosystems. Sharks are at the very top of the ocean food chain, and so they play an extremely important role in the survival of the ecosystem in general, which would be greatly affected by the extinction of most species of sharks. Sharks are a vital component of the ecosystem.

I would like to mention some important statistics. I think that all the members who spoke today mentioned that approximately 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins.

If that trend continues, up to 20 shark species could be functionally extinct by 2017. Another important statistic: Canada imports an average of just over 100 tons of shark fins per year. According to a CTV news report, testing conducted in British Columbia to determine whether shark fins could easily be found in Canada and what species those fins came from showed that 76% of shark fins came from endangered species of sharks. That means that most shark fins in Canada come from endangered species.

How is shark finning done? In my opinion, this is a horrible, barbaric and abominable practice. It is inhumane to do what is being done right now: fishers are setting lines that are 85 km long in the hopes of catching sharks, knowing full well that many other species will be killed by this type of fishing. The sharks are even sometimes still alive when they are brought onto the boats. The sharks' fins are simply cut off and their bodies are dumped back into the ocean. Clearly, the sharks will then die because they cannot swim without their fins. It is hard to believe.

When I watched the documentary Sharkwater recently, I was quite surprised and disappointed to see that human beings are capable of being so disrespectful toward nature. These animals are basically being tortured. As I mentioned earlier, it is important that Canada send a clear message in this regard, and that is the spirit of this bill. Clearly, we object to this practice.

Earlier, I heard a member say that this could hurt the economy, but we know full well that shark meat is eaten only on rare occasions. Shark meat is rarely eaten. Most of the time, sharks are fished simply for their fins since their meat cannot be eaten because it often contains too much mercury. It is a bit of a flawed argument to say that the industry could also produce shark meat. It is a bit of a stretch to say that this would hurt the economy.

Communities that eat shark are changing their customs. The member for Brossard—La Prairie gave a speech about it. He said that the majority of communities and the new generation oppose the practice. Many countries, including China, have prohibited importing shark fins. China has also imposed restrictions, because it does not want shark fin to be served at its official banquets. The Chinese government has even signalled that it does not agree with the practice, which is a threat to our ecosystems.

I do not have much time left, so I would like to conclude by thanking my colleague once again and congratulating him. Today, Canada has a duty to send a message that we oppose this practice and we no longer want to be part of this trade, which is often a black market trade and even involves organized crime. This bill sends a clear message to the international community that we are taking this situation seriously, that we want to protect our ecosystems and that we want to protect the environment for future generations who will have to deal with the fallout of this practice if we do not put an immediate end to it.

I encourage all of my colleagues, from all sides, to support this bill and send it to committee so that any necessary amendments can be made. I know that my colleague is open to sensible proposals. At the very least, this bill should be sent to committee.


March 25th, 2013 / 11:35 a.m.
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LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the important issue of shark finning. As others have said, I am confident that the consensus among all parliamentarians is that shark finning is a barbaric practice. We all agree on this.

The question is how to deal with the issue in an effective way. Bill C-380 is not the way. Why is that? It is because the bill calls for a ban on shark finning, which is already banned in Canada for Canadian licensed vessels fishing within and beyond our territorial waters. In fact, the practice has been banned in Canada since 1994, through licence conditions under the fisheries general regulations.

On the subject of import licence requirements, I am proud to stand before the House and report that our government is exploring options to identify a practical, effective and expeditious resolution to this issue. Specially, our government is exploring the option of adding additional conditions to arrangements that would require that shark fin imports be sourced from jurisdictions that, like Canada, ban the practice of shark finning. That way, we would bolster our domestic ban on this abhorrent practice by putting more teeth into our important protocols.

The course of this action would both respect Canada's international trade obligations and address the issue of shark finning. Best of all, once all of the appropriate considerations had been addressed, the new import requirements would be implemented more quickly than a regulatory change.

We have listened and we are taking action to address the major concerns of the proposed bill.

What are the current regulations? Recently, the issue of shark finning has received worldwide attention, as a number of animal rights and environmental organizations have blamed it for the decline of shark populations worldwide. These groups claim that between 70 and 100 million sharks are caught worldwide just for their fins, primarily for shark fin soup.

The practice of shark finning can be lucrative, yielding as much as $700 per pound for shark fins. Thanks to our government's regulations, shark fishing in Canada is governed by sustainable management plans and strong enforcement. We have strong management and enforcement regimes in place to ensure that finning does not occur in Canadian fisheries. These apply to all shark species in Canadian waters. Shark fisheries are subject to dockside monitoring, at-sea observer coverage, quota monitoring systems, electronic vessel monitoring systems and hail requirements for both the at-sea observer program and dockside monitoring program.

The Fisheries Act is the cornerstone of Canada's fisheries management policy, providing broad powers to the minister for the management, conservation and protection of fish resources. These powers include the discretion to, one, issue licences or leases for fisheries or fishing; two, allocate harvests among user groups; and three, protect fish habitat and prevent pollution.

Section 22 of the regulations provides the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans the specific authority to set out targeted licence conditions for the proper management and control of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish, including sharks. These provisions provide the minister with the authority to impose, as a licence condition, measures to eliminate shark finning.

We can see that the regulations already allow the minister to impose, as a licence condition, the measure to eliminate shark finning. Therefore, the member's bill seeks to prevent something from happening in Canada that is already prohibited. Today, all licence holders for Canadian shark fisheries and for fisheries where sharks are landed as a bycatch are subject to licence conditions that prohibit them from engaging in shark finning.

The ban is enforced through a number of internationally accepted methods across Canada. One approach requires that the number of fins corresponds 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 on-board when it lands. Both measures are intended to ensure that sharks are not caught solely for their fins.

All licensed shark fishing vessels in Canada are subject to 100% monitoring to ensure that 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 court-imposed licence suspensions and quota penalties, to loss of privilege of renewal of the exploratory licence.

These measures were put in place to ensure that Canada's shark fishing conforms to sustainable harvesting practices. It is a very practical approach and it has worked well.

Canada's approach is an internationally accepted standard within regional fisheries management organizations.

Canada has additionally worked with other countries to put an end to this practice. Our government will continue to work with our international partners to ensure sustainable management of sharks, including the prohibition of the practice of fining.

Internationally, we promote 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, that 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 protects the great white, basking and whale sharks. In early March in Bangkok the convention voted at a global wildlife conference to regulate the trade of shark species that have been threatened because their fins are used to make expensive delicacies in Asia. Delegates supported proposals to put the oceanic whitetip, hammerhead and porbeagle sharks on a list of species whose trade is closely controlled.

More than two dozen species of shark are officially endangered, and more than 100 others are considered either vulnerable or near-threatened. 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, which certifies that the imported shark, or products derived from it, were caught in a scientifically proven sustainable fishery.

Our government has taken action against the deplorable practice of illegal shark fining. We continue to support responsible, legal shark harvesters and crack down on those who break the rules.

Furthermore, to strengthen Canada's protection of sharks we are exploring the option to add additional conditions for fish and seafood imports into Canada that would require that shark fin imports be sourced from jurisdictions that, like Canada, ban the practice of shark fining.

We believe that, with these measures in place, private member's bill C-380 would not be required, and we will oppose it.


March 25th, 2013 / 11:25 a.m.
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Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me today to offer support for Bill C-380, an act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act, which would prohibit the importation of shark fins not attached to the rest of the shark and enshrine in legislation Canada's prohibition on finning.

I would like to thank and applaud my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for his courage in raising this important issue.

As we all know, an illegal trade in animal body parts exists in the world, such as ivory and rhino horns from Africa, tiger parts from Siberia and bear parts from North America. I am not a hunter but I understand full well the practice of killing animals for food when done in a responsible way to feed people. One might say that shooting a deer in the wild could be considered more humane than putting animals through a slaughterhouse. However, being a meat eater, as most of us are, I accept all of these practices.

On the other hand, killing animals for trophies or body parts is totally reprehensible. That is why I do not support the hunting of grizzlies in my province or anywhere else for that matter.

I have seen the documentary Sharkwater and have watched how sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and they are thrown back into the water. This practice is repulsive, immoral and is largely driven by an underground market controlled by organized crime that exploits threatened and endangered species to maximize profits.

Nearly 100 million sharks are killed every year, mainly for their fins. Trade is under-regulated, and it is almost impossible to ensure that imported fins have not been removed illegally or are not from threatened species.

Shark populations are slow to reproduce and cannot support the current overfishing. Sharks are essential to the health of marine ecosystems, and the decline in their population threatens to profoundly disrupt these ecosystems. In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that one-third of shark species were threatened with extinction because of this trade.

In a few decades, shark populations in certain areas have dropped by more than 95%, and they continue to decline. According to some experts, up to 20 shark species could disappear by 2017. In addition, it is impossible to know whether imported fins come from sustainable and respectful fishing.

Shark fin soup currently sells for between $8 and $100 a bowl in restaurants. However, in Canada as abroad, more and more people are refusing to serve or eat this kind of soup, and many Chinese restaurants have voluntarily taken this soup off their menu, including Floata in Vancouver, one of the largest Chinese restaurants in Canada.

Some municipalities in Canada have also passed, or will soon pass, bylaws prohibiting the sale of shark fins and related products. The communities in British Columbia that fall into this group are Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Duncan, Langley, the Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Port Moody and White Rock. I congratulate the municipal councils for having the courage to pass these bylaws.

The Chinese government has required that shark fin soup no longer be served at state banquets. A number of prestigious hotels have removed this type of soup from their menu. Many countries, including the Bahamas, Ecuador and Fiji, territories like French Polynesia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as the American states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington have issued similar bans.

Some people say that Bill C-380 will have an impact on international trade. Based on our research, that is not the case.

We studied the possible consequences of an import ban in relation to the WTO obligations, and we feel that this bill complies with Canada's international trade obligations. Furthermore, my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam is open to amendments at committee stage.

We need to get the bill to committee to address any concerns anyone has.

There are a number of myths about Canada's current shark fin import laws. Some elected members have suggested that Bill C-380 is unnecessary because Canada already has enough laws and that Canada bans the trade of shark products from species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) or the Species at Risk Act.

According to the Canadian branch of Humane Society International, this is false. Both CITES and SARA only protect three species of shark: basking sharks, whale sharks and great white sharks. In other words, out of 141 threatened or near-threatened shark species only 3 are protected by Canadian federal laws.

Another myth we hear is that Canada bans or restricts the trade, possession or sale of shark products that present human health or safety concerns. This is also false. Shark fins, which continue to be legally imported into Canada contain high concentrations of a potent neurotoxin, BMAA, which scientists have linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease. This is not unlike, for example, the link between phenylbutazone in horsemeat and aplastic anemia in children.

The third myth states that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong global management and enforcement practices is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices such as finning. This is also false. As long as there is a demand for shark fins, there will be local industry pressure on governments not to prohibit the practice. This demand will also perpetuate the poaching of sharks in the waters of countries that already prohibit finning.

Canada has already been identified, for example, by CSIS as a destination country for poached shark fins from Australia, even though some Australian states have some of the world's strongest shark finning laws. Eliminating the demand removes incentive for fishermen to continue finning and poaching sharks.

We have a chance in the House to do something right together, to take a major step and end this disgusting practice. At a bare minimum, I strongly urge my colleagues who are here, and others who will be here later on, to support getting Bill C-380 to committee where there can be a detailed study with feedback from witnesses, as is the case in a democratic process.

It does not hurt, in any of these crucial issues, to have some more insurance. If we think we have good laws, let us beef them up and provide more insurance to toughen them up. We can always ease back on a law after we have toughened it up, but it is really hard to try to enforce something when we do not have the legislative background to do it.

For this reason, I urge my colleagues to support Bill C-380. I thank my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for having taken the initiative to bring this forward.


March 25th, 2013 / 11:05 a.m.
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Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour or the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for a minute. I have the honour of serving on the fisheries committee with them, and their dedication to fisheries conservation is well known.

I would like to start by making it very clear that the practice of shark finning, defined in this bill as the practice of removing the fins from sharks and discarding the remainder of the sharks while at sea, is a deplorable activity. There are up to 100 million sharks a year that are killed, mostly for their fins, according to the UNFAO.

I think I can say that from past discussions among representatives of all parties in the House, there is agreement that sharks play a critical role in our ocean ecosystem and the practice of shark finning as defined above is abhorrent.

In 2007, Canada released its national plan of action for the conservation and management of sharks in response to international calls on states to do so within the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Three shark species are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora: the whale shark, the great white shark and the basking shark. As a party to this agreement, often known as CITES, Canada takes seriously its obligation to prevent the import of products made from listed species.

This having been said, it is important to make the distinction between shark finning and shark fishing. The practice of shark finning is already prohibited in Canada and has been so since 1994. On the other hand, shark fishing does occur in Canada and has been occurring in Canada for over 80 years in many areas. Canada's shark fisheries are clearly sustainable and based on sound scientific advice. In fact, the Pacific spiny dogfish fishery recently became the first shark fishery to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, a testament to the efficacy of the controls placed on that fishery by DFO.

We have controls in place to manage shark fishing, just as we have controls in place for all commercial fisheries. These controls fulfill the government's duty to manage Canada's sea coast and inland fisheries on behalf of all of us.

In case anybody is tempted to ask, I will digress and talk a little about the budget that just came forward. We were very pleased to see that a new program is beginning for the conservation of fisheries through community partnerships. That is a testament to the government's action on behalf of fisheries conservation. Again, the dedication of the entire Pacific salmon stamp to Pacific salmon conservation is another milestone in Canadian fisheries conservation.

With regard to sharks, 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. For example, licence conditions, pursuant to subsection 22(1) of the fishery general regulations, are attached to porbeagle shark licences. Conditions clearly state that while fishing under the authority of these licence conditions, “Finning (the practice of removing only the fins from the sharks and discarding the remainder of the shark at sea) is strictly prohibited”.

Canadian fishermen can also sustainably harvest sharks on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts through directed fishing conditions for spiny dogfish and allowed bycatch of blue, shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks. However, annual landings of these sharks are very small.

Further, if the licence holder removes fins from any sharks that he or she has retained, the weight of the fin so removed cannot exceed 5% of the weight of the corresponding dressed shark carcasses that have been retained. In other words, a licence holder who has legally caught a shark can remove the fin of the shark as part of the normal dressing of a fish. Finally, to ensure compliance, all shark fins and carcasses must be unloaded at the same time. These measures are specifically to ensure that shark finning is not taking place.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also responsible for setting the quotas and for enforcing licence conditions that ensure sustainability. As mentioned earlier, shark fins cannot make up more than 5% of the overall weight of a shark that is on board a Canadian fishing vessel. In order to enforce this, all landings are subject to 100% monitoring by dockside observers to ensure compliance. Non-compliance with a licence condition constitutes an offence under the Fisheries Act, as enforced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA, is the federal department dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants, which enhances the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy. CFIA regulates the import of food products, such as shark fins. CFIA is already exploring what can be done on the importation of shark fins.

Shark products for human consumption fall under regulations that address the importation of fish and seafood products. These regulations set standards for quality, safety, identification and are enforced by CFIA. It is not illegal to sell shark fins in Canada, and banning the use of shark fins would damage legitimate sustainable fisheries that supply fins but also other shark products.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans promotes the full utilization of sharks. I would note that shark fins are a specialty food product and a treasured food resource for many of Canada's communities. The fact remains that shark fishing is a legitimate fishery and its products are found in numerous places. Shark meat is available in restaurants and supermarkets under many names: fish strips, stockfish, and rock salmon. It is also in fish and chips or imitation crab meat. This is probably more than anybody ever wanted to know about sharks.

In the health sector, shark cartilage powder is marketed as a healthy food supplement. Shark liver oil is rich in vitamin A and is frequently an ingredient in every child's favourite food, cod liver oil. Some even market shark cartilage as an anti-cancer medicine, though evidence is still being sought in this regard.

Shark products are found in dog food, fish meal and even in fertilizers. Some people may even have shark skin wallets or boots. Collagen from shark cartilage is used in creams and other collagen preparations, and it is even considered kosher.

The Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, at its triennial conference in Bangkok, on March 3 to 14 of this year, took decisive action for the protection of a wide range of other plants and animals in order to improve the world's wildlife trade. At this meeting, Canada fully supported the decision to include protection for five commercially valuable shark species: the oceanic whitetip, the scalloped hammerhead, the great hammerhead shark, the smooth hammerhead shark and the porbeagle shark, which are harvested in significant numbers for their valuable fins. This decision means that they can only be traded with CITES permits, and evidence will have to be provided that they are harvested sustainably and legally.

In fact, the only criteria for fisheries management should be the sustainability of the fisheries resource, not polls. The regulations governing the trade of these products will come into effect in 2014. These new listings join those for three species already under CITES protection: the great white shark, the whale shark and basking shark.

I would like to quote the CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon, who said:

This is a big day for CITES and for the world's wildlife. It takes enormous effort to negotiate treaties and then make them work. The international community has today decided to make best use of this pragmatic and effective agreement to help it along the path to sustainability in our oceans and forests.

Requiring CITES export permits will ensure that international markets are supplied by fish from sustainably managed fisheries and, again, sustainability should be the only criteria.

What has happened as well, given the CITES agreements, is that China, one of the world's biggest markets for shark fins, is already seeing the impact of the world campaign. Shark fin imports to China dropped off dramatically last year, to 3,351 tonnes, from 10,340 tonnes in 2011.

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. A complete trade ban would penalize responsible and legitimate fishing practices.

Bill C-380 can be seen as interference in the legitimate natural resource management policies of other countries. We must be very careful here. Canada has become a target of ill thought out and disgraceful campaigns by international activist organizations for what are very sustainable natural resource industries. We can look at the seal hunt, forestry and of course the oil sands. Bill C-380 sets a very bad precedent, is overly broad and could unfairly target sustainable fisheries around the world, just as many rural Canadian communities have been unfairly targeted even when science shows their resource use is sustainable and managed well.

There is a role for Canada to promote responsible resource management in international waters and fisheries, but we must ensure we follow the appropriate international channels and do not act unilaterally.

Mr. Speaker, as you can see, actions have been taken domestically and internationally to end the practice of shark finning, and they are effective. The measures in Bill C-380 do not add anything further to our current efforts, and that is why we will not be supporting the bill.

The House resumed from February 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-380, An Act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act (importation of shark fins), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Shark FinningStatements By Members

February 14th, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, an estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, often by a brutal practice called shark finning. Fins are removed and the bodies dumped into the ocean, causing a rapid decline in shark populations and serious impacts on our marine ecosystems.

My colleague, the NDP deputy fisheries and oceans critic, has provided remarkable leadership on this issue by introducing Bill C-380, a law that would stop the import of shark fins into Canada once and for all.

People across Canada have been working incredibly hard in support of this bill. Groups like Fin Free Victoria, a group that includes students from Glenlyon Northfolk School, and other schools in my riding, have been a real force for change, campaigning online and in the community. Let us listen to their voices. I am urging every member of the House to do the right thing and vote for the bill and stop the barbaric import of shark fins.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

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