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.