Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation Act

An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (importation and exportation of shark fins)

Status

Second reading (House), as of April 1, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill S-238.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning.

It also amends the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act to prohibit the importation into and exportation from Canada of shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a carcass, or any derivatives of shark fins.

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.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

moved that 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 (importation and exportation of shark fins), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill S-238. I would like to thank the member for Beaches—East York for seconding this bill, and I pay tribute to the hon. Senator Michael MacDonald for his tireless work getting Bill S-238 passed through the Senate. I would also like to acknowledge the work of his staff, Ewan Dunn and Kathryn Dunn. It has been a pleasure working with them on this critical issue.

This bill would ban the importation and exportation of shark fins, into and out of Canada, that are not attached to a shark carcass. It would provide an exception for ministerial permit if the importation of fins were for scientific research and would benefit the survival of the species. It would enshrine into law a prohibition on the practice of shark finning.

Shark finning has been banned in Canada under licensing conditions since 1994, but shockingly, the importation of shark fins continues to be permitted. Since 2011, five private member's bills banning the trade in shark fins have been introduced. In that time, nearly one billion sharks have been butchered and killed for their fins, shrinking the international shark population and driving dozens of shark species to near extinction. Last year, Canada imported 170,000 kilograms of shark fins, which is a 60% increase over 2012 levels.

Shark finning is the horrific practice of cutting the fins from living sharks and discarding the remainder of the shark at sea. The sharks then drown, starve to death or are eaten alive by other fish. It is a brutal fishing practice.

As top predators, sharks play a key role in maintaining ocean health. Dr. Dirk Steinke, adjunct professor, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph, testified to this at the Senate fisheries committee in December 2017. He said:

sharks are not only the most vulnerable but, also, probably the most important when you speak of an entire ocean as an ecosystem. They maintain all the species below them in the food chain or in the food network. For us, as scientists, they serve as a very important indicator of ocean health because we can immediately see that if they are not doing well, then something along the food network is also not doing well and we can probe further into that.

Unfortunately, due to shark finning, shark populations are plummeting around the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that a quarter of all shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of shark finning. Some shark populations have dropped by a stunning 99% over the past 50 years.

The best way to curb illegal finning is to stop the international trade in shark fins, which has been linked to organized crime, as Rob Stewart's films, Sharkwater, and the sequel, Sharkwater Extinction, clearly demonstrate.

In 2013, I tabled Bill C-380, but it was defeated by five votes. Many MPs who are now in the governing party supported that bill, and I hope they will support Bill S-238.

I was honoured to work with my friend, Canadian filmmaker and conservationist, Rob Stewart, whose 2006 award-winning documentary film Sharkwater shed light on the horrific practice of shark finning. Rob tragically died last year filming the sequel, Sharkwater Extinction. However, Rob's parents, Sandy and Brian Stewart, have continued his work educating the public on the need to protect sharks and on the essential role sharks play in our ecosystem. I encourage all MPs and the public to see this award-winning film.

Shark finning is decimating one of the most critical specifies on the planet to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, yet the fins have virtually no flavour and add zero nutritional value. Canada can become a world leader in shark conservation and ocean stewardship by adopting this legislation. With a federal election expected October 21, it is imperative that Bill S-238 gets through debate, is reviewed by the fisheries and oceans standing committee and receives third reading and royal assent, all before the election is called. Sharks and the marine ecosystems that depend on them cannot wait for another election.

Canadians are watching, and they are waiting for Parliament to act. A petition at Change.org calling on Parliament to support Bill S-238 has received over a quarter-million signatures. I implore all MPs to pass this bill and put an end to the destructive practice.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge several people and organizations that have done tremendous work on this. I mentioned Senator Mike MacDonald and Brian and Sandy Stewart. Oceana Canada, Humane Society International/Canada, International Fund for Animal Welfare and numerous municipalities, conservation groups and concerned citizens right across the country are also working to pass resolutions to support Bill S-238. I thank them for all their hard work.

I would like to encourage all MPs to move this through the House as quickly as possible.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Sean Casey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for presenting this bill and for his speech. He would be well aware that there are several municipalities in Canada that have attempted to deal with this through bylaws. I would invite him to offer some comment on the jurisdictions that are impacted and the reason for federal legislation, given that certain municipalities have attempted to take this on.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. Over the years, municipalities have wanted to see action happen across the country. They could not wait for federal, provincial or territorial jurisdictions to move, so they have acted. They have been frustrated over the years, because if we have a patchwork quilt of legislation in different municipalities, business can just move from one municipality to avoid legislation in that municipality, for instance Toronto, and operate, for instance, in Oakville. Certainly I heard from consultations back in 2012, before I introduced the bill in the House, that this was a concern.

What I heard from even restauranteurs and industry was that they wanted a definitive response, a definitive bill, that would level the playing field. A national ban would level the playing field. It would help municipalities and provinces that want to do the right thing. A ban on importing would assist them in dealing with shark conservation and would end this practice and put a stop to it.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague and say what enormous respect I have for him in that he has used his many years in the House to fight for the issue of the ocean ecosystem and has used the opportunities of the House and his role as a member of Parliament to advocate for ocean health and the shark population that is being gutted around the world.

Why does my hon. colleague feel so moved to lead this fight, and why is it so important for not just Canadians but people around the world to take ocean health seriously?

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, when I first got to this place, it was a big concern that Canada, as an ocean nation, paid a lot of attention to our fishery but did not pay as much attention to the health of our oceans. I thought it was very important, especially back in 2012, when I read a United Nations report on the state of the world's oceans that said that our top predators, globally, in all oceans, were plummeting, including sharks.

Sharks play a key role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. There are many threats facing the ocean. A changing climate, which is impacting the oceans at a tremendous rate, is also a big part of the problem.

One of the things we need to do as a nation is play a leadership role. Banning the importation of shark fins is a way Canada can play a stewardship role and send a clear message to other countries that this is the right thing to do. It can encourage other countries, such as our neighbour to the south and the European Union, to also ban the importation of shark fins so that we can see those shark populations come back and flourish and we can have a healthy fishery and healthy oceans. I think Canada wants to see this.

I will say that 81% of Canadians, in a poll done a number of years ago, wanted to see the practice of shark finning banned. There is tremendous support across the country from individuals and organizations that want to see this practice stopped. They want to see shark populations return to a healthy balance in our ecosystem.

Canada has an opportunity. We have to act now. The government needs to act before the summer, before the House rises in June, by fast-tracking this legislation to the fisheries committee so that we can get this legislation passed and enshrined before October 21.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Sean Casey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today 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, also known as the ban on shark fin importation and exportation act.

The Government of Canada remains strongly committed to managing shark populations worldwide, with conservation and protection goals a priority.

Shark finning refers to the practice of harvesting sharks and removing fins from the live animal, only to return the debilitated animal, alive, to the water. The maimed animal then drowns as it sinks, powerless, to the bottom of the ocean.

I hope that image causes distress. It should. Canadians have told us that they are appalled by it and that they want us to put an end to it. Bill S-238 aims to do that, and it is a good thing.

My House of Commons and Senate colleagues are probably all familiar with the film Sharkwater, which came out in 2007. This captivating documentary starring Rob Stewart and Paul Watson is at times so shocking that it is difficult to watch.

The film follows the biologist-conservationist duo who joined forces to fight the poachers who kill animals illegally for their fins. The film, which contrasts gorgeous underwater scenes with images of horrifying animal cruelty, set off a global movement against shark finning.

This past fall, Mr. Stewart was again featured in a sequel to the same documentary, entitled Sharkwater Extinction. This more recent documentary exposes the continued, rampant existence of a significant illegal shark fin industry. At the core of this documentary is, once again, the cruel treatment of sharks and their rapid decline toward extinction. Also featured are the criminal conspiracies and the violent corruption, which often put Stewart and his crew at risk, that are linked to the still very lucrative illegal shark finning industry. Sadly, Mr. Stewart died in January 2017 while he was in Florida filming Sharkwater Extinction.

The original documentary and its sequel are making their mark around the world. There is increased compassion and sympathy for the once feared and misunderstood shark and a growing concern that we are slaughtering them to extinction and governments are doing nothing to stop it.

The fact is that in Canada, shark finning has been illegal since 1994. However, and this is where much of the concern lies, importing fins from other countries that do not ban the practice is still permitted. This has made it difficult for municipalities to impose bans through bylaws. In fact, since 2011, several Canadian cities have attempted to impose bans on possessing, selling or consuming shark fin products. Notably, Brantford, Oakville, Toronto, Newmarket and Mississauga, in Ontario, and Calgary, in Alberta, all had such bans at one time. Some still do today.

There are problems with local bans, however. Some have been challenged in court and overturned. While the courts agree that shark finning is inhumane, the main problem is that municipal governments have no authority over shark fin importation. The lack of legitimate finality at the local level means there is a growing need for a federal response to this important issue.

As we heard, in 2013 a private member’s bill to ban shark fin imports in Canada failed in this House. We are now faced with another opportunity, provided to us by Senator Michael L. MacDonald, in the form of Bill S-238. I ask that we carefully consider Bill S-238 and its proposed legislative solutions to the growing global issue of shark finning.

This proposed bill to ban the importation and exportation of shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass, or any derivatives of shark fins, has a tremendous amount of merit. It would indeed be an indication of Canada's global leadership and position against the cruel practice of shark finning to amend the Fisheries Act and enshrine the prohibition of shark finning in Canada. However, I carefully followed the debate on this bill in the other place and, as raised in the other chamber, Bill S-238's proposed amendments to the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, WAPPRIITA, prohibiting the import and export of shark fins may be problematic.

Implementing Bill S-238, as amended by the other place, has a number of implications. With respect to WAPPRIITA, the proposed amendments do not discriminate between sustainably harvested sharks and shark products, and shark fins that are the product of shark finning. This would be inconsistent with Canada's international trade law obligations because it would pose a risk of violating non-discrimination obligations. A ban on the import of shark fin products and their derivatives without banning all internal trade of the products would violate this obligation.

In fact, a study of the legal implications of an almost complete ban on the importing of shark fins by Canada, as proposed by Bill S-238, revealed that this would very likely result in the violation of our obligations to the World Trade Organization.

Trade measures can be an effective means of fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and of promoting sustainable fishing practices. However, these requirements must be consistent with Canada's international trade obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization. I am sure there is a way forward that will allow us to comply with our trade obligations and, more importantly, to put an end to shark finning.

I will take a few seconds at this time to summarize.

Shark finning has been banned in Canada since 1994 through the licence conditions administered under the Fishery (General) Regulations, a regulation made under the Fisheries act.

In 2016, Canada implemented a mandatory fins-attached management measure for all pelagic shark landings across Canada. All harvesters are required to land pelagic sharks with the fins naturally attached.

Bill S-238 proposes to add a prohibition on shark finning in the Fisheries Act that would enshrine the ban of shark finning in the Fisheries Act, as well as banning importation through WAPPRIITA.

The government is committed to ensuring that we end the practice of shark finning while ensuring we uphold our international trade commitments.

I am convinced that shark finning is a cruel practice. As a Canadian and a steward of our natural environment, I feel I have a responsibility to prevent cruelty towards any animal and the decimation of any species. That is why I look forward to a rigorous debate on this bill in committee.

Bill S-238 is a noble indication that Canadians feel the same way. Perhaps the means by which the bill proposes to achieve its ends are not perfect, but I believe it is our duty here in this place to find a way to do whatever is within our power to stop shark finning. I am confident that this is the right thing to do.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak this evening in support of Bill S-238, an act that would ban the import and export of shark fins in Canada. I will be brief because we would all like to see the bill quickly passed here and given royal assent before Parliament rises in June.

Five or more similar bills have been debated in this place over the years, and unfortunately none has passed. It would be unfortunate if we missed the opportunity once again to pass this important legislation.

I would like to thank my friend, Senator Mike MacDonald from Nova Scotia, for introducing the bill into the Senate, and I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, for sponsoring it in this place. It is very similar to a bill that he put forward as a private member's bill in 2013.

As others have said, shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, cutting off its fins and throwing it back in the ocean alive, where it dies a miserable death, usually from drowning. Sharks have to keep moving through the water to breathe, to get water moving across their gills, and without their fins, they just sink to the bottom and drown. It is barbaric and it is wasteful. Most of it is illegal, and it is fuelled by simple greed.

We might think it is not a common practice, but unfortunately that is not the case. Over 100 million sharks are killed every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, and some estimates are double that, at 200 million sharks. Canada's share in this slaughter is increasing. We imported 180,000 kilograms of shark fins in 2017, up from 106,000 kilograms in 2012. We are the largest importer of shark fins outside of East Asia.

This practice is significantly impacting shark fin populations around the world, and it does not just affect the sharks: It is radically changing ocean ecosystems. Imagine 100 million bears disappearing from our forests or 100 million lions disappearing from the plains of Africa.

Also, 141 species of sharks around the world are now classified as threatened with extinction or near threatened with extinction. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has assessed six species of sharks from Canadian waters and has listed three as endangered and three as being of special concern.

Some shark species are particularly hard hit by finning. The scalloped hammerhead has declined over 90%—one study suggested a loss of 98%—over a period of 30 years off the east coast of North America. Data from the same coast indicates that the population of the oceanic whitetip shark, once one of the most abundant animals in the world's oceans, has declined by over 70% between 1992 and 2000. That is 70% in only eight years. This once abundant species is rapidly becoming functionally extinct.

Before I had the privilege to sit in this place, I was an ecologist who did a lot of work on species at risk. One thing I noticed over that career is our casual disregard for the destruction of populations of animals living in our oceans, lakes and rivers, be they fish, sharks, turtles or whales. We simply do not seem to worry about things we cannot see. Because we cannot easily see what goes on below the surface of the ocean, we too often destroy populations before we are aware of what we have really done. I can mention the impact on whale populations around the world, Atlantic salmon, northern cod, and now the sharks of the world.

I will finish by mentioning, as others have, that last October I had the honour of meeting the parents of Rob Stewart at an early screening of Rob's magnificent movie Sharkwater Extinction. Rob was a remarkable young Canadian devoted to the conservation of marine ecosystems, and especially sharks. His movie Sharkwater was hailed around the world, but tragically he drowned while filming the sequel, Sharkwater Extinction. His parents have bravely worked to finish the movie and it is now being shown across the country.

I urge everyone here and everyone across Canada to see this important documentary. It will inspire people and change their view on sharks forever.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on a couple of comments. The member who spoke just before me made a recommendation to watch a specific show.

Over the last number of years, one of the things I have found is that there has been a great deal of attention from producers to better portray sharks and the role they play in our oceans in a more fair fashion. I believe Canada has demonstrated significant leadership in terms of our oceans and showing just how important they are to the world.

That should not surprise people. Canada is surrounded by three oceans, from the east, west and north. Then we have the U.S. below us, to the south. Manitoba is not quite landlocked because of Churchill. However, provinces like Saskatchewan, Alberta and others, even though they do not necessarily have direct links to the oceans, have an understanding and an appreciation of just how important our oceans are to the world.

There is a beautiful documentary production called The Blue Planet. I have had the opportunity to watch it on several occasions. It gives a better sense of what is in our oceans. There are a number of movies or documentaries that deal with the ocean.

More and more, I have found that Canadians are becoming sympathetic and want to see a government take action to protect our oceans. What we have seen over the last couple of years is that we have a government that has been listening to what Canadians have to say about our oceans. We see that in the legislation the government has brought in to protect our oceans and in its budgetary measures. The government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars, in terms of protecting our oceans.

The parliamentary secretary for oceans was talking about that graphic visual. I, too, have seen that visual, where these boats and trawlers are out in our oceans, hauling in sharks, taking the fins off the shark and then throwing the remaining body back into the ocean. One can only imagine the impact that is having on the animal, floating to the bottom and ultimately drowning.

That is not to mention the sheer numbers. We hear a great deal about millions. The original speaker to Bill S-238 made reference to close to a billion over the last number of years. I do not know how statistically accurate that might be, but what we do know is that it is having a very profound, negative impact on our shark population. That is something that all Canadians should be concerned about.

At the end of the day, looking at this particular piece of legislation, and I know there might be others who want to contribute to this debate, the government has been fairly clear that it would be good to see the legislation sent to committee.

I know there are some concerns. It is important that we hear from some of the community members as to what their concerns might be with respect to the legislation and the impact that it might have. I can appreciate that, here in Canada, through our fisheries, in order to acquire a licence, there is a certain commitment given that it is already illegal for someone fishing to take fins off a shark and bring that commodity in.

Shark finning is already illegal because of the licensing requirement.

Having said that, it is important for us to recognize that there is importing and exporting of shark fins which have been taken from a trolley of sorts, and the carcasses of sharks are being thrown back into the water. This is in good part what the bill is trying to focus on, if I understand it correctly. It focuses on cases in which fins are being taken off a shark, the shark is being put back into the water and those fins are ultimately being brought into the country through importation for whatever use they might have. This legislation would make it illegal to import or export fins.

There are a great number of Canadians who would in fact be very sympathetic to the legislation. I have received a few emails from constituents of mine who have expressed an interest in this particular issue.

I appreciate that the Senate is the originating body that brought forward this legislation. However, as has been pointed out, it is not the first time that this type of legislation has been brought to the House, although I believe it one of the first times that we are debating it. I think there is a sense of optimism that if we can move it to the committee stage, some amendments could follow that would make the legislation even better and more acceptable for a larger percentage of the population.

I talked about the importance of the legislation, but at the end of the day, the shark is just one species that is mentioned. The government also needs to look at ways that it can improve the stock of many different species in our oceans. I am thinking of our killer whale populations. In the province of Manitoba, there has always been concern, for example, over our beluga whales in the Churchill region. There is an issue regarding the salmon run. At times, these issues all cause a great deal of concern to stakeholders and industry representatives, and there is no doubt that a great number of individuals have a vested interest when governments bring forward legislation of this nature.

That is the reason it is important that we continue to go through the process. It is with a hope that at the end of the day, we will see legislation that continues what started about 20 years ago, from what I understand, with respect to shark harvesting, which was to be conducted through our fishery licensing process.

It is not as if this is a new issue; it is an issue that has been around for many years now. In the past, governments have attempted to deal with it while working with Canadians. We have seen a desire to look at what other countries around the world are doing and at how we might be able to demonstrate some leadership on this very important issue.

I have indicated in the past that Canada often carries, I would suggest, a great deal more clout on the international scene than one would expect, given our population in comparison to the population of the world. I think one of the things we can capitalize on is the reputation that Canada has. We have oceans surrounding our nation and we have a vested interested in them. Countries around the world recognize the importance of what Canada has been able to accomplish.

The bill could, after moving to committee and passing through it with amendments, make a significant difference. I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts on the record with respect to it.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today 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, which is also referred to as an act on the importation and exportation of shark fins.

Bill S-238 proposes to amend the Fisheries Act, with the goal of prohibiting the practice of shark finning. It also proposes amendments to the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, which would prohibit the import and export of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass or any derivatives of shark fins.

Shark finning is the practice of removing fins from sharks and discarding the carcasses at sea. This practice has been effectively banned in Canada, as we have heard in this House already this evening, since 1994. It is prohibited through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' regulatory framework as a condition of licences issued under the Fisheries Act.

However, there is no doubt that shark finning and the illegal shark fin trade have had a devastating impact on global shark populations, as we have been hearing this evening. Sadly, it is more efficient for fishermen to harvest the fins and discard the carcasses at sea, given the high value of the fins. Loading a vessel with the entire carcass is burdensome and less profitable. In Canada, sharks are harvested as bycatch.

We have heard the concerns of many Canadians who signed many petitions supporting government action to ban the shark finning practice. The intent of Bill S-238 is consistent with the government's commitment to sustainable, science-based management of stocks, including sharks. In Canada, the practice of shark finning has in effect been banned since 1994 through licence conditions.

In March of this year, the government implemented a fisheries management change requiring all sharks caught in Canadian fisheries to be landed with their fins naturally attached. This means that all harvesters are required to land sharks with fins attached. Through enforcement provisions, these fisheries are also subject to 100% independent dockside monitoring to ensure compliance.

Canada represents less than 1.5% of global shark fin imports. In 2017, outside of Asia, countries such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States all imported more shark fin products than Canada. No shark fin products have been exported from Canada since 2015. That said, Canada has a unique opportunity to demonstrate global leadership on this very important issue.

There are provisions in the Fisheries Act and its associated regulations to provide a mechanism that can be used to address the issue of shark finning by Canadian fishing vessels. However, Bill S-238 proposes to add a prohibition against shark finning in the Fisheries Act. By enshrining the ban in legislation, Canada would strengthen its approach to protecting endangered sharks and exhibit global leadership on this very important issue. This would also shore up enforcement and penalties associated with any breach of licence with penalties for chargeable offences under the Fisheries Act.

Bill S-238 also proposes amendments to the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act that would prohibit the import and export of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass.

I understand that concerns were raised in the other place about the trade implications of banning the import and export of shark fins and their derivatives in this manner. In particular, the national treatment obligation of the World Trade Organization requires imported and domestic goods to be treated equally. A ban on the import of shark fins that are not attached to shark carcasses or any derivatives of shark fins without banning all international trade of the products, as heard in the other place, would likely violate this obligation.

In order for importers to bring in shark fins, the bill would require that the captured shark remains whole until the product reaches Canada. This would be a significant increase in the burden on the shark fin trade industry, including for processors, exporters and importers. Requiring that fins remain attached until a product is imported would also be a significant shift in the global standard. It would create a significant burden for foreign counterparts and disrupt trade flows for importers and exporters as shark meat and fins are often destined for separate markets.

I indeed support the intent of the legislation and I hope this unintended consequence is something the committee can further examine. Make no mistake, shark finning is a cruel practice that needs to be addressed. Bill S-238 is a step in the right direction. Similar measures have already been implemented by some of our key partners, such as the United States and the European Union. These mandate the domestic landing of entire shark carcasses with the fin attached, which is agreed upon as an effective way of preventing finning. Landing the entire shark carcass also encourages the full use of the shark and not just the fins.

That is why I look forward to the debate at committee and to hearing from witnesses so that the committee can ensure the bill meets its intent while respecting the existing trade responsibilities. I commend Senator MacDonald and, indeed, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for championing a cause that I know Canadians from coast to coast support.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to rise 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 regard to importation and exportation of shark fins. As we just heard from my colleague, I am also proud to rise and speak in favour of this piece of legislation.

It is a very important piece of legislation, and I would like to thank the member of the other House who was mentioned, Senator Michael MacDonald, for raising this issue. The other House has given a lot of time and debate to the issue and has brought forward some very timely and important discussions that need to be happening concerning Canadian legislation at this point in time.

I would also like to thank the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for bringing forward the issue. I know that he is a passionate advocate for environmental issues, and in particular aquatic issues. It is very timely that we are talking about the issue of shark finning at this point in Canada.

As we have heard others say, shark finning is essentially a cruel practice in which fins are taken off sharks and the sharks are returned to the ocean to die. Although we have had different bans on this practice through regulation and through the Fisheries Act, we know that it still happens in Canada and internationally, and it is time that we look at ways to strengthen the ban.

As a member of the environment committee, I know the important role that committees can play in debating legislation and looking at how we can improve legislation, and it would be very appropriate as we move through the debate and the legislative process to get this to a committee, probably the fisheries committee, and look at what improvements this House would like to make to the proposed legislation and look at how we can end, once and for all, a cruel practice and see how we can better control the practice of harvesting all products from sharks should they be captured.

I would also like to take a minute to talk about the ecological impacts that result from this kind of shark finning practice in Canadian waters and internationally, because it is very much a global issue.

We know that sharks play a very important role within the marine environment as a predator, and they can work on controlling undesirable species. They deserve to exist. Although they are often looked at as an evil player within the aquatic system, they play an important role within these ecosystems. Therefore, I believe we need to look at what kind of protections can be offered to sharks and therefore to the overall health of an aquatic environment. Allowing shark finning to continue simply disrupts these kinds of practices, and looking at how this legislation can help the practice of shark finning while maintaining a healthy aquatic and marine environment is very important.

We have heard about the number of shark species that are perilously close to extinction or that are endangered or approaching that status in Canada and internationally. This should be an issue of concern to all Canadians and to all persons around the globe. Canada has a real opportunity here to play a leadership role in finding the right legislative balance so that harvesting can happen humanely and in a way that is not disruptive to the marine environment.

We have received some petitions. In my riding of Cloverdale—Langley City, a number of constituents have gotten hold of me. They were surprised that the practice of shark finning is still happening, not only in Canada but internationally. As I said, although there have been measures in place since 1994 for shark finning to be prohibited, we know that there are still occurrences, and Canada can play a leadership role in making sure that we see an end to this kind of practice internationally through best practices.

This idea of taking sharks and cutting off the fins and discarding the carcass is wasteful. Some of the proposed changes of making sure that the entire carcass, when caught, is kept on board and brought to Canada for processing would ensure that the inhumane treatment in how sharks are harvested would be dealt with.

It would also allow us to look at other by-products that come from this harvesting practice. We would not tolerate it with other fish species and I do not see why we would continue to allow this to happen with sharks. Although they have been somewhat demonized, it is time to get past that and look at how we can really deal with them in a humane environment.

We have also heard that it is a commodity and shark fins are retailing for up to $400 per kilogram. There is an economic piece here and what we are really looking at is how this can be done in a way that is respectful to the environment and allows the humane harvest of sharks to happen. We have heard and seen that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans now requires that fleets land pelagic sharks with their fins naturally attached. This is a huge step forward.

However, that is not a legislative piece, so having Bill S-238 attempt to deal with this and to formalize it in a legislative manner with penalties that would go along with not respecting the law is a responsible way to go. Again, I commend the other House for identifying this issue and putting forward some very realistic solutions. As we move through the debate process, I will be in support of the legislation being sent to committee.

We have heard in the House many times recently about how our government supports the independent work of committees. I know that the fisheries and oceans committee, if that is where it lands, would be able to do some real digging into this to see how Canadian legislation could deal with this global issue that we are facing. It would be a really wise way to go.

Going back to the bill, I understand that it would prohibit the import and export of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass, or any derivatives of shark fins. From the petitions I was talking about that I have seen in my riding of Cloverdale—Langley City, this would really resonate with the constituents I represent in the House. We want shark finning and the illegal shark trade ended so that we can stop the devastating impacts it has on shark populations.

It is unfortunate to see that fisher people see it as being more efficient to harvest the fins and discard the carcass at sea, because there is this very high value of fins that I mentioned of $400 per kilogram. If they had to take the whole carcass, that creates, perhaps, a financial burden by making it less profitable, but we really feel that we need to see this practice dealt with. As I said, I commend both the other place and this House for bringing forward the legislation.

In Canada, we have heard that we comprise less than 1.5% of global shark fin imports, so there is always a question domestically about how much time and effort we should spend dealing with issues that are of global importance. In this case, 98.5% of the issue is actually being dealt with outside of Canada's shores and waters. We can look at examples of countries such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, which have all dealt with this issue in different ways. Canada has an opportunity to be part of this global solution and continue to provide global leadership.

It is important for us to have this discussion right now. It is going to be timely for us to get the legislation to committee, have the committee look at it and report back to the House to see what kinds of amendments could be proposed to strengthen Bill S-238, because it really is a step in the right direction.

With that, I will close my comments and I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to a very important piece of legislation.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 7:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity today to speak on 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 (importation and exportation of shark fins).

I want to join colleagues who spoke earlier and thank Senator Michael MacDonald for sponsoring the bill in the Senate and my colleague across the way from Port Moody—Coquitlam for sponsoring it here in this House.

When we think about how cruel it would be to an animal to remove a vital part, such as the fin from a fish, whether it be a shark, whale or any species in the water, it is unimaginable. Can members imagine people harvesting the dorsal fin of an orca, for example, and it not being able to survive in the water once it was put back in? What an act of cruelty it would be to capture the animal, remove the fin and discard it back into the water to perish in a horrible death because it is not able to function as it was designed to.

To mention what the bill is about, it states:

Whereas in 1994 the Canadian Government banned shark finning — namely, the practice of removing the fins from live sharks and discarding the remainder of the sharks while at sea — in Canadian fisheries waters and with respect to Canadian licensed vessels fishing outside of Canada’s exclusive economic zone;

Whereas Canadians are increasingly aware of the devastating effect of the continuing practice of shark finning and the resulting decline in shark species in Canadian waters and around the world, and are in support of measures to stop this practice and ensure the responsible conservation, management and exploitation of sharks;

And whereas the importation of shark fins is not justifiable in the face of the dramatic decline in shark species and losses in shark populations worldwide;

Most people may not know this, but being from Newfoundland and Labrador, I grew up on the ocean. I still live within a few hundred feet of the ocean. We have seen an increase in the sightings of sharks in our waters around Newfoundland and Labrador, especially during the summer months. Different species of sharks seem to populate our waters. It may be because of the good feeding on the fish that also populate our waters. However, a lot of people say that it is global warming or the warming of the waters in the area in which we live that is attracting the sharks to more or less migrate to different areas and hunt for food, as of course is their natural instinct.

I believe that this government will support this bill in the House and get it to committee. I look forward to that, because I believe it will come to the committee that I chair, the fisheries and oceans committee, and give us a chance to bring witnesses forward to hear from people involved in the industry, to hear from people on all sides, and get the proper consultations done. If we have to make the necessary amendments, we can get that done, while keeping in mind the purpose of the bill, which is to do away with this horrible act of shark finning being done on a commercial basis.

I believe somebody may have mentioned it, and if not, I saw see it in print, that shark fins can be sold for a value of up to $400 per kilogram. That is a nice payday for people who can get two or three shark fins a day. However, they are not looking at what they are destroying or considering the cruelty inflicted on the animal.

Our government agrees that shark finning is a destructive and wasteful practice that contributes to the global decline of several shark species. That is why shark finning has been prohibited in Canada for over two decades. That is why our government implemented measures that require all sharks caught in Canadian fisheries to be landed with their fins naturally attached.

I think my time is up. Once again, I am thankful for the opportunity to give my short intervention today.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActRoutine Proceedings

February 19th, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

moved for leave to introduce 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 (importation and exportation of shark fins).

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to sponsor Bill S-238, which proposes to ban the importation and exportation of shark fins. This legislation was passed in the Senate late last year and now must be reviewed in the House of Commons.

This legislation, introduced by Senator Michael McDonald, would prohibit the importation and exportation of shark fins.

With a federal election expected on October 21, it is imperative that all members work together to ensure that Bill S-238 receives royal assent before the fall election.

Over 70 million sharks are killed each year for their fins. Since 2011, five private members' bills have been introduced that would have banned the trade in shark fins. In that time, over half a billion sharks have been butchered and killed for their fins.

We cannot wait for another election. We must pass this legislation and end the destructive practice of shark finning.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)