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)


In committee (House), as of May 1, 2019

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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.


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.

Third ReadingCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2019 / 5:15 p.m.
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Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me just pick up again on Bill C-246, the Liberal backbench bill that the government defeated. It would have also dealt with the things that are in this government bill. We could have done what is in this bill before us, and more, by passing that private member's bill.

Perhaps most importantly, Bill C-246 would have moved offences against animals out of the property section of the Criminal Code and into a new section dedicated to offences against animals. This would not only have been an important legal reform; I think it would also be a very important symbol of our need as humans to rethink our place in the natural universe and to see ourselves as part of the web of nature on which we depend for our very survival, rather than seeing the Earth and all of its beings as simply property for us to use and discard when we are done.

I have spent a lot of time on this private member's bill because it puts the much narrower government bill in front of us into a proper context. The fact that the government used its majority to defeat a more comprehensive reform of animal cruelty legislation tempers the credit the government should get for bringing forward this bill today.

At this point, I also want to give credit to the Conservative member for Calgary Nose Hill, who pushed the government to act on the very narrow definition that the Supreme Court found by introducing her own private member's bill, Bill C-388, in order to make sure that the government was forced to bring forward its own bill instead of having to deal with hers.

The member for Calgary Nose Hill did acknowledge some concerns in her caucus that attempting to modernize and strengthen animal cruelty provisions might affect farmers and hunters. I also want to acknowledge concerns in indigenous communities that reforms of animal cruelty legislation should not infringe on aboriginal rights and traditional hunting practices.

However, like the member for Calgary Nose Hill, I believe we can update animal cruelty legislation and at the same time avoid unintended impacts on farmers and hunters and unintended consequences with regard to aboriginal rights.

Perhaps I should mention that I am not a hunter, nor have I eaten meat for more than 35 years. I am a proud dog owner, although I resisted the temptation today to wear a t-shirt with a picture of my poodle on it under my jacket. I should also say that my support for this bill will keep peace at home, as my partner is a very passionate advocate for animal rights.

In fact, New Democrats in this House have consistently advocated reform of animal cruelty laws. The member for Port Moody—Coquitlam has proposed his private member's bill, Bill C-380, which would have banned the importation of shark fins. He has been working very hard on the Senate bill, Bill S-238, which is a parallel bill, to make sure that we pass that bill before the House rises to help end the cruel practice of shark finning.

Both the member for Vancouver East and the member for New Westminster—Burnaby have introduced motions to ban the import of products containing dog and cat fur. Former Toronto NDP MP Peggy Nash had a private member's bill, Bill C-232, to strengthen animal cruelty laws, as did former NDP Quebec MP Isabelle Morin, so this is not a new cause for us to take up. This is something we have been fighting for for many years in this House.

At the justice committee, the member for Beaches—East York moved an amendment to Bill C-84, which was adopted unanimously and which broadened the government's too-narrow bill, and three very important provisions were added to the bill in committee.

The first of those allows a prohibition order on animal ownership for a certain period, as determined by a judge. The second makes it an offence to violate an order prohibiting animal ownership, meaning that someone could actually be prosecuted for violating that order of prohibition. The third allows restitution orders to compel those convicted to pay for the care of animals injured. Those were quite important aspects from his own private member's bill on which the member got consensus to bring into the bill before us today.

A separate amendment was also adopted to add bestiality to the list of offences covered in the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. As the member for St. Albert—Edmonton very clearly pointed out, the reason for doing this is that abuse of animals is often an indicator of other forms of abuse, in particular of child abuse. This becomes information that is very useful to the police. I thank him for bringing forward that amendment to this bill.

Those two amendments, one with three provisions and one with one provision, added important aspects to Bill C-84, even though it remains, as I said before, less than the comprehensive reform of animal cruelty legislation that I would like to see before the House.

Still, Bill C-84 does redefine bestiality more broadly than the court decision and it does prohibit a broader range of activities associated with animal fighting, so I and my fellow New Democrats are supporting this bill.

I would have to say personally that even if it only contained the provisions banning activities associated with animal fighting, I would support this bill. It is important to ban promoting, arranging and profiting from animal fighting. It is important to ban breeding, training or transporting animals to fight and it is important to ban keeping any arena for the purpose of animal fighting. I think these are very important steps.

I am not going to go on for a long time, despite the accusations of the government that the reason that we wanted to speak was to delay the bill. I am not even going to use all my time today. I want to conclude by saying that the reason I wanted to speak is to bring our attention to the fact that there is still a lot of work to do on animal cruelty after we pass Bill C-84.

We are missing the opportunity for that comprehensive reform that I have been talking about. In particular, I believe this bill should have included basic standards of care and housing for animals. It could also have included restrictions on tethering animals, in particular dogs, a practice that, since it is unregulated, can be a severe threat to the health and safety of dogs. Of course, tethered dogs are much more likely to bite, and specifically to bite children. In fact, according to the Montreal SPCA, tethered dogs are three times more likely to bite and five times more likely to bite children.

Again, after Bill C-84 passes, there is much more work to do beyond fixing the additional provisions of the Criminal Code that I mentioned earlier. Most important, of course, is the work that needs to be done on protecting endangered species and the habitat that they depend on. This past week, we saw the release of an alarming report from the United Nations intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity. This report documents the unprecedented and accelerating rates of species' extinction at rates never before seen in human history. The report warns that more than one million animal and plant species are facing extinction within the next few decades as a result of human activity.

What we do need now, and I mean right now, are bold measures to protect and preserve the ecosystems that the endangered plants and animals depend on. Since I arrived in this House eight years ago, I have been an advocate for emergency action to protect the southern resident killer whales, as we are at the brink of losing a species, each of whose name is individually known. Instead of a bold and urgent recovery plan for the orcas that would mobilize large-scale habitat restoration where appropriate and put millions of hatchery chinook in the water, this work is being left to volunteers, and they have undertaken this work without any government support. Instead of support, we have a timid recovery plan that tries to manage declining stocks of chinook by relying on fishing restrictions when everybody knows that what we actually need—not just the whales, but all of us—is more fish in the water.

In conclusion, while passing Bill C-84 is an important step forward in animal protection, it is only a first step in a process that will require us to re-examine our place in the natural world.

May 8th, 2019 / 4:35 p.m.
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Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First, in relation to Bill S-238, I've been advised that in order for the clause-by-clause to be held on May 27, I need to put forward this motion:

That the proposed amendments to Bill S-238 be submitted to the Clerk of the Committee in both official languages by noon on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at the latest.

May 8th, 2019 / 4:15 p.m.
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The Clerk

It states:

That the Committee hold a meeting for the clause by clause review of Bill S-238 as soon as possible.

May 8th, 2019 / 4:15 p.m.
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The Chair Liberal Ken McDonald

Is it the motion that you gave notice of on Bill S-238 ?

May 6th, 2019 / 3:25 p.m.
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Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to issue a notice of motion, and I'll read that into the minutes:

That the Committee hold a meeting for the clause by clause review of Bill S-238 as soon as possible.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2019 / 6:30 p.m.
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Deb Schulte Liberal King—Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking Senator Mike MacDonald, from Nova Scotia, for introducing this bill, Bill S-238, in the Senate and the many parliamentarians who have been involved in getting it to this second reading in the House.

There probably is no one here today who would not recoil in disgust if they saw, as I have, the photos of line after line of shark fins spread out to dry in the sun. The waste captured in just one photograph is immense. So too is the suffering these sharks endured, casually tossed back into the sea to die a cruel death. The capacity of man to view himself apart from nature, taking what he wants without thought as to the consequences or the impact on other species, is on display in these obscene photos of shark fins stacked for drying.

My riding of King—Vaughan is blessed with many wonderful features. However, we do not have an ocean. That does not stop my residents from caring about this issue. I have received many emails and letters demanding that we do something to better manage and protect ocean species and aquatic ecosystems and to stop shark finning.

This issue was brought to my attention not only by my residents but by my son, who has recently graduated with a marine biology degree from Dalhousie. It seems that I am talking about marine ecosystems wherever I go, and the talk often is not uplifting. However, being aware of this destruction and being revolted by specific acts like shark finning is not enough. We collectively have to act when we can and where we can to create a better world.

Others more knowledgeable than I am can speak to the crucial role top predators play in maintaining ecological balance. Others will surely raise that some species of sharks or some populations of sharks are in dangerous decline. Those are important matters to consider, but rather than those issues, I would like to take my time to consider how shark finning sits discordantly with a couple of important Canadian values and traditions.

First is the characteristically Canadian value of being prudent with our resources, including wildlife resources, and avoiding overuse or wasteful practices. We do not always get the balance right, but we aspire to. When Canadians have harmed our environment, most often it has been due to inadequate knowledge or understanding rather than wanton disregard or blind destruction driven by greed. Shark finning, it seems to me, not only is incompatible with Canadian values but is incredibly wasteful.

Second is the role Canada has always played as a middle power, punching above our weight and helping to make a better world beyond our borders.

Opponents of Bill S-238 have said that the bill is unnecessary, that Canada, as a condition of granting fishing licenses, has already long prohibited the finning of sharks in Canadian waters. On this point, let me begin by noting that sharks do not know where our boundaries are. In the vast ocean, sharks swim back and forth from protected to unprotected waters on any given day, so any law preventing sharks from being finned in Canada's exclusive economic zone does not prevent this abhorrent practice from taking place. Therefore, Bill S-238 is not about protecting sharks within Canadian waters. It is about protecting sharks outside of Canadian waters from being caught and finned to service a demand created by people within Canada willing to import these shark fins for human consumption.

As others have noted, Canada currently is a significant and growing market for shark fins imported from abroad, with about 170,000 kilograms of shark fins imported annually. Canada is a small country, population-wise, but as a major shark fin importer, we have a huge negative impact on the health of the world's sharks. The hypocrisy of protecting sharks in Canadian waters from this wasteful and cruel fishing practice, only to import shark fins harvested in this same manner from elsewhere, is not consistent with our values, especially for a nation that prides itself on environmental leadership.

Nevertheless, arguments against a total ban on shark fin imports have been raised based on Canada's international trade obligations. The potential legal issue is whether the legislation provides a satisfactory distinction between fins obtained sustainably and those obtained via the cruel and wasteful practice of finning. The difference, it seems to me, is whether the whole shark is used or whether just the fins are used. These issues are not unresolvable and have been addressed in the bill and likely are resolvable through further regulation.

Surely there are some species of shark in such endangered states that no imports should be allowed for conservation reasons, whether the entire shark has been harvested and used or just the fins.

For species of shark with demonstrably healthy populations, a rigorous track-and-trace system could be employed to demonstrate that the fins were derived from a shark sustainably harvested and used in its totality rather than just the fins. Of course, the onus of providing adequate tracking and tracing should rest with the importer of such fins.

Moving forward, it seems it is finally time to take action regarding this abhorrent and wasteful practice of shark finning. Given the devastation being experienced in the world's oceans and the collapse of many of the world's largest fish species, we need to ensure sustainable fishing practices are in place to protect our ocean ecosystems and our apex ocean species.

I look forward to seeing this bill move through the process quickly and getting the bill passed as soon as possible.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2019 / 6:20 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to address the issue of shark finning.

I have listened to my colleagues on both sides of the House, and I am encouraged by the thoughtfulness with which all sides have addressed the issue. In truth, I do not think any private member's bill, except perhaps my bill, Bill C-211, has encouraged such a thoughtful and wholesome debate as Bill S-238 has.

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 regarding importation and exportation of shark fins, was brought forward by our hon. colleague Senator Michael MacDonald. The senator has worked tirelessly to bring this issue to the forefront of public consciousness. He is passionate about this issue. He is committed to seeing this bill receive its due consideration.

There are 465 known species of sharks living in our oceans today. Their importance in the ocean ecosystem cannot be overstated.

Shark finning has been banned in Canada under licensing conditions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans since 1994. Even though the practice is banned in Canada, the importation of shark fins continues to be permitted. In fact, data suggests that Canada may be the second-highest importer of fins outside of Asia.

The fins are used to make soup and, historically, at a time when landing sharks was far more difficult, the soup was a rarity available only to the wealthy people of some Asian cultures. It was a small industry, with the fins usually salvaged from sharks wholly consumed for food. Today, however, as a sign of social status, shark fin soup is regularly served at weddings and banquets of a wealthier and rapidly expanding middle class. With a single dish of shark fin soup costing over $100 U.S., sharks are now hunted en masse, solely for the value of their fins.

In 2017 alone, Canada imported over 170,000 kilograms of shark fins, a number that represents a 60% increase since 2012. Bill S-238 would put an end to this practice by prohibiting the importation into Canada of shark fins that are not attached to the carcass. Bill S-238 would also define, and enshrine into law, the prohibition on the practice of shark finning.

The bill proposes to amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning. It also proposes to amend the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and lnterprovincial Trade Act to prohibit the importation into Canada of shark fins that are not attached to the shark carcass. The bill permits an exemption to the shark fin ban if the minister is of the opinion that the importation “is for the purpose of scientific research relating to shark conservation that is conducted by qualified persons” and “the activity benefits the survival of shark species or is required to enhance their chance of survival in the wild.”

Earlier in this Parliament, the member for Beaches—East York introduced a very similar bill, Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Fisheries Act, the Textile Labelling Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (animal protection). His bill was defeated at second reading and did not make it to committee for further study.

In the last Parliament, the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam introduced legislation to ban the import of shark fins. His bill, Bill C-380, was also narrowly defeated, but in my research I found some interesting points that I would like to bring up in this debate.

During the debate on February 11, 2013, the member for Cardigan said this:

It is dependent upon us as federal legislators to be very sensitive to the cultural and identity concerns of Canada's many different communities, while still taking a strong stance against the very cruel and inhumane practice of shark finning, which is still practised in countries around the world. Not all shark fisheries involve species that are threatened, and not all shark fishers participate in the cruel practice of shark finning.

This is also an important point to make. We must not put countries that do a good job of regulating their shark fisheries to prevent overfishing and cruelty in the same boat as countries that permit overfishing and shark finning. If we punish only those countries that allow these practices by banning imports from them we would send them a very clear message that this is unacceptable. Perhaps this would be an incentive for those countries to change the way they handle their shark fisheries and perhaps other countries would follow suit.

However, if we also punish those countries that are doing a good job regulating their shark fisheries and preventing cruelty, what message are we sending to them? We would be sending the message that it makes no difference whether they regulate their fisheries and prevent cruelty; that we will treat them the same as countries with unregulated fisheries that allow overfishing to destroy shark stocks and that allow the cruel practice of shark finning. I certainly do not feel that this would be a prudent thing to do.

I think the remarks that the Minister of Agriculture made then are just as important today.

It is important that we get this right. Our former Conservative government committed to addressing the serious problem of shark finning during our time in office. We acted on several fronts. We worked through regional fisheries management organizations, such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, to ensure strong management and enforcement practices globally, to prevent unsustainable practices such as finning.

The bill before us and the previous incarnations have not been without controversy. I have received tons and tons of emails, as well as recipes, at some point, for shark fin, so both sides of the argument have been heard in our office. As with previous similar pieces of legislation, cultural communities across the country have voiced their opposition to an outright ban on imports.

In late 2011, the City of Brantford, as discussed, became the first city in Canada to pass new bylaws to ban the possession, sale or consumption of shark fin products. In that medium-sized city, where no restaurants that served shark fin existed, there was no opposition to the ban, which was largely symbolic. Nevertheless, a handful of cities soon followed, notably Toronto, Calgary, Mississauga and several others in southern Ontario. Markham and Richmond Hill opted not to bring forth the motion, suggesting that this issue is a federal matter.

Chinese restaurants and businesses selling shark fin opposed the ban, and in late 2011, suggested that they would challenge the bylaws before the courts once fines were imposed. When Toronto imposed steep fines, the restaurants did just that, and they won. In late 2012, the Ontario Superior Court overturned Toronto's shark fin ban, ruling that the law, as written, was outside the powers of the city to impose without a “legitimate local purpose”, and was therefore of “no force and effect”. The judge accepted that the practice of shark finning was inhumane, but he did not agree with Toronto's justification of local purpose, namely, that the consumption of shark fins may have an “adverse impact” on the health and safety of its residents and on the environmental well-being of the city.

I want to be very clear. This topic has evoked a considerable amount of thoughtful discussion and debate, of which I am very appreciative. I also want to thank our colleagues for proposing this legislation. Canadians should expect this type of respectful discussion when legislation such as Bill C-238 is brought forth. It is what they expect us as parliamentarians and legislators to do. It is clear that we need to consider all aspects of this legislation, and I look forward to hearing from my colleagues as we continue this debate.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2019 / 6:15 p.m.
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Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the practice involves removing the fins of the shark and throwing the rest of the shark back into the water to suffocate or bleed to death.

I next approached my good friend and fellow councillor Max Khan to ask for his support as a seconder of the motion. As was Max's style, he did not hesitate to say yes, and so began my personal journey to protect the sharks, and by extension, our oceans. On Monday, July 4, 2011, in a unanimous vote, Oakville became the second municipality in Canada to ban shark fin soup in the community. The chamber was filled with supporters that night, and I was incredibly proud of the community's efforts to move this issue forward.

As I said at the time, given the devastating rate at which sharks are being slaughtered solely for their fins, many species face extinction within a decade. Since sharks are so important to our marine ecosystems, it seemed logical that Oakville should take a leadership role in this instance. This was another way Oakville could demonstrate its commitment to environmental sustainability. In addition to banning the possession, sale, distribution and consumption of shark fins, our motion also called on the federal government to introduce regulations to ban the importation of shark fins, cartilage and all derivative products in Canada.

At the time, I had the privilege of meeting filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart, who had just released the groundbreaking film Sharkwater. We lost Rob in 2017 when he died doing what he loved while filming his sequel, Sharkwater: Extinction. What a legacy for Rob and his work if this Parliament could pass this bill before we rise in June.

After watching Sharkwater, I realized that what I knew about sharks was all wrong. Most of what I knew about sharks came from one movie. In fact, now that I have mentioned it, members likely hear that ominous music playing in their heads. It was Jaws, a blockbuster movie that made all of us fear sharks and view them as a menace. Rob Stewart dispelled those myths, but it was one of the reasons sharks were able to be exploited the way they had been.

If people visit the Sharkwater website, they can learn a lot about sharks, about how sharks are the perfect predator, formed by 450 million years of evolution, having lived longer than the dinosaurs and surviving five major extinctions, about how they formed life as we know it and keep the oceans, our planet's life force, healthy. It explains that we exist, in part, because sharks did, and still do.

Up to 150 million sharks are killed every year. Scientists know that regional populations of large sharks have all but disappeared in places like the North Atlantic, where their numbers are estimated to be down by 95%. At the current rate, some species of sharks could face extinction.

Oceans are our largest ecosystem, which is already threatened by global warming, pollution, plastics, habitat destruction and overfishing. We take our oceans for granted, yet we are witnessing the destruction of our marine ecosystem by humans. Sharks play a critical role in the health of our oceans. As the predator at the top of the food chain, they are crucial to keeping other species in balance and maintaining the overall health of the waters. They are at the top of the food chain on two-thirds of the world's surface.

Sharkwater's website also states that one study in the U.S. indicates that the elimination of sharks resulted in the destruction of the shellfish industry in waters off the mid-Atlantic states of the United States due to the unchecked population of cownose rays, whose mainstay is scallops. Studies in Belize have shown reef systems falling into extreme decline when the sharks have been overfished, destroying an entire ecosystem. The downstream effects are frightening. The spike in the grouper population due to the elimination of sharks resulted in the decimation of the parrotfish population, which could no longer perform its important role of keeping the coral algae free.

Canadians care deeply about our oceans. Many gain their livelihood because of the oceans. Indigenous people have been the stewards of our oceans and waters for thousands of years.

Shark finning has been banned in Canadian waters since 1994, but Canadians might be surprised to learn that the importation of shark fins is still permitted. Canadians might also be surprised to learn that according to the United Nations, Canada is the largest importer of shark fins outside East Asia. Bill S-238 would change that.

I know that Wendy Perkins and others are watching this tonight. To them I want to say thanks for their commitment to this issue year after year. I thank Wendy for challenging me to bring this forward in Oakville and for continuing to champion the issue.

It is truly an honour for me to be here in the House of Commons to speak in favour of an issue that I first brought to the Oakville council, and on that note, I want to remember my late friend Max Khan, who supported me in all things, including on the issue of ending shark finning.

Finally, I want to thank my good friend, the member for Beaches—East York, who had attempted to deal with the issue of shark finning in his private member's bill. He is one of the most passionate advocates for animal welfare, and I want to thank him for his leadership and commitment.

As Rob Stewart said, “The animal we fear the most is the one we can't live without.” We have the power to protect our oceans. We can honour the memory of one of Canada's finest filmmakers and environmentalists.

This bill passed in the Senate last year, and I am pleased to support the bill in the House. I encourage all members to work together to see this bill receive royal assent prior to the House rising in June.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2019 / 6:15 p.m.
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Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my pleasure to speak today to Bill S-238, the ban on shark fin importation and exportation act. I want to start by commending my colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam for his passion and determination on this issue and for bringing the bill to the House of Commons.

I know that this is a bill he has tried to bring forward in the past. In fact, five private member's bills have been introduced in this place that would have banned the trade in shark fins, and it is my sincere hope that 2019 is the year we are finally successful. I give my commitment to the hon. member that I will do everything I can to strongly advocate for the passage of this bill.

It was shortly after I was elected to Oakville town council that I first learned about the critical role sharks play in the health of our oceans and the marine ecosystem. I had a call from Oakville resident Wendy Perkins asking me to bring forward a motion to Oakville town council to ban shark fin soup.

Former Ontario provincial member Phil Gilles had successfully encouraged the Brantford city council to pass this motion, and Wendy wanted Oakville to follow suit. I educated myself on the issue and found out that sharks are apex predators. They are crucial to maintaining marine biodiversity.

Even after years of education and awareness on the issue, millions of sharks lose their fins to shark fin soup every year. Consumption of this luxury dish has led to overfishing of many vulnerable shark species as well as to the inhumane practice of finning. The practice involves removing the fin of the shark—

Shark FinningStatements By Members

April 2nd, 2019 / 2:05 p.m.
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Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, sharks play a critical role in maintaining ocean health, but, shockingly, nearly a billion have been slaughtered since 2011.

Canadians expect us to be part of the solution to protect them, to ensure their survival. Bill S-238, important legislation, would do just that: prohibit the import and export of shark fins into and out of Canada.

The bill is similar to my 2013 private member's bill, which had the support of the Liberal caucus but was defeated by only five votes. If we fast forward to 2019, the Liberals have enough votes to ensure swift passage of this important bill, However, in typical say one thing and do another Liberal fashion, government members are dragging out debate and hinting the bill needs amendments. Shame on them. Those stall tactics will ensure that Bill S-238 will not pass before the House rises this June.

Sharks and our ocean ecosystems that depend on them cannot wait another election. The government has an opportunity to do the right thing here. Let us pass this bill, end this destructive practice and move forward on restoring ocean health.

Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 7:25 p.m.
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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 ActPrivate Members' Business

April 1st, 2019 / 7:15 p.m.
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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 / 7:05 p.m.
See context


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 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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.