I'd like to thank the committee for its invitation to speak to Bill S-238, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act with reference to importation and exportation of shark fins. As originally introduced by Senator MacDonald, the bill's original sponsor in the Senate, Bill S-238 proposed to prohibit shark finning in Canada and ban the importation of shark fins and their derivatives into Canada. As you know, it was subsequently modified by the Senate to also ban the export of shark fins from Canada. The bill also provides for exceptions by ministerial permit if the importation is for scientific research and benefits the survival of the species.
Before I address the substance of Bill S-238, I would like to review the context in which the bill has been introduced.
The practice of shark finning refers to the removal of fins from sharks at sea, often while the shark is still alive, and discarding the remaining carcass. It is widely recognized that shark finning and the impact of the trade in shark fins has had a devastating impact on the global shark population. Driven by high prices of whole fins, sharks represent a commercially profitable catch. Outside of Canada, the shark trade is not well controlled and is often the result of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 25% of the world's shark and ray species are threatened by extinction. In fact, it's estimated that more than 63 million sharks are killed each year, and scientists estimate that they're being killed 30% faster than they can replace themselves. The most recent statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on trade in shark products conservatively put the average declared value of the total world shark-fin trade at $273.3 million U.S. per year from 2011 to 2015.
Canada represents a very small share of the global market in shark fins. In 2018, Canada imported $3.24 million Canadian worth of shark fins, mainly from Hong Kong and China, which represents around 1.9% of the reported global shark-fin imports of $173.9 million. Canadian shark-fin imports have declined by over 50% since 2005, when the value of imports was $6.4 million Canadian. Currently, Canada does not export any shark fins.
I would also like to note at this time the amendments introduced by Senator Harder to Bill C-68, which were approved by the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on May 14, 2019. Senator Harder's amendments have incorporated the policy intent of Bill S-238 within the Fisheries Act; however, instead of banning the import and export of shark fins with the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, WAPPRIITA, it is proposed to enact these provisions through the Fisheries Act.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to the conservation and sustainable management of shark stocks and strongly opposes shark finning. It is worth noting that since 1994, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has effectively banned the practice of shark finning by Canadian vessels through fish licence conditions.
Canada does not have a directed commercial fishery for pelagic sharks, and the harvest of pelagic sharks in Canadian fisheries waters is primarily as incidental catch, or bycatch.
Since 2018, the licence conditions have been tightened, and the fleets that have been permitted to retain incidental catch are now required to maintain the fins attached to the carcass until after the shark is offloaded from the vessel. This is an internationally recognized best practice, and key trade partners such as the United States and the European Union have changed their domestic management measures to move to a fins-attached landing requirement.
To strengthen and further support these efforts, Bill S-238 proposes amendments to the Fisheries Act that would explicitly prohibit shark finning in Canada.
That concludes my opening remarks. I thank you once again for the invitation to speak today. My colleagues and I are happy to answer any questions you may have.