Mr. Speaker, again, I want to thank the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for bringing this important issue to the attention of this House.
I think I can safely say that every member of this House, as do I, thinks the practice of shark finning is an awful thing. It involves the removal of the shark's fin while it is still alive and discarding the rest of the animal into the sea to die of suffocation or predation. We all agree that this is deplorable. Where we might disagree is on how to deal with the issue of shark finning, and I am not yet convinced that Bill C-380 is the way.
To remind hon. members, the bill proposes to amend two federal acts: the Fish Inspection Act, to prohibit the importation of shark fins; and the Fisheries Act, to prohibit the practice of shark finning in Canada. As my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, has spoken on the Fish Inspection Act, I will focus primarily on the changes proposed to the Fisheries Act.
Bill C-380 calls for amendments to the Fisheries Act to ban the practice of shark finning. However, the bill attempts to fix something that is not broken. Shark finning is banned in Canada and has been for almost two decades. In fact, the practice of finning has been banned in Canada since 1994, through licensing conditions under the fishery general regulations. That ban applies to Canadian fishery waters as well as licensed Canadian vessels fishing outside of our territorial waters.
Shark fishing in Canada is governed by sustainable management plans that include strong enforcement regimes to ensure that finning does not occur in Canadian fisheries, and these apply to all shark fisheries in Canadian waters. Indeed, only a few shark species are harvested in Canada, including spiny dogfish, porbeagle shark, shortfin mako shark and blue shark. These harvests are carefully managed based on the best scientific advice, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is allowed to monitor shark populations in order to ensure their conservation. The shark fishery in Canada is highly regulated, with rigorous dockside monitoring. In fact, Canada maintains the first and only shark fishery in the world to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
As mentioned, in 1994, due to rising concerns over the practice, the Canadian government prohibited shark finning. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was given the ability to do this under section 7 of the Fisheries Act, which sets out the minister's authority to issue leases and licences for fisheries or fishing. Section 22 of the regulations provides the minister with specific authority to set out targeted licence conditions for the proper management and control of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish. These provisions provide the minister with the authority to impose measures to eliminate shark finning as a licence condition.
Therefore, the regulations already allow the minister to impose, as a licence condition, measures to eliminate shark finning, which has been done. Today, all licence holders for Canadian shark fisheries and for fisheries where sharks are landed as bycatch are subject to licence conditions that prohibit them from engaging in shark finning. Why try to reinvent the wheel with Bill C-380?
The ban is enforced through a number of different internationally accepted methods across Canada. One approach requires that the number of fins correspond with the number of shark carcasses landed by shark fishing vessels. Under a second and more common approach, the number of fins on shark fishing vessels cannot exceed 5% of the overall weight of carcasses onboard when it lands. Both methods are intended to ensure that sharks are not being caught solely for their fins.
All licensed shark fishing vessels in Canada are subject to 100% monitoring to ensure this ratio is respected. Any violation of a licence condition is an offence under the Fisheries Act. Penalties for those found to be in contravention of their conditions of licence range from warnings, to prosecution, to requests for a court-imposed licence suspension and quota penalties, to loss of the privilege to renew the licence.
These measures were put in place to ensure Canada's shark fishery conforms to sustainable harvesting practices. It is a very practical approach and it has worked well. There has been only one minor breach in recent years; otherwise shark finning has not been an issue in Canadian fisheries. I would also add that Canada's approach is an internally accepted standard within regional fisheries management organizations.
While the bill is flawed, there are other ways to address the issue. For example, the proposed amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act would provide new tools for Canadian officials to seize shipments of fish products that have been caught illegally, such as shark fins. The proposed revisions to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act currently being reviewed by the Senate, as Bill S-13, would provide the legislative authority for Canada to prevent the import of fish products from illegal sources. Additionally, Canada has worked with other countries to put an end to this practice. The Government of Canada will continue to work with our international partners to ensure sustainable management of sharks, including the prohibition of the practice of finning.
Globally, Canada promotes the sustainable management and conservation of sharks through international organizations, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and regional fisheries management bodies, such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. There are also a number of international agreements, to which Canada is a party, which govern the conservation management and trade of certain at-risk shark species. For instance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, usually called CITES, protects the great white shark, and basking and whale sharks. Imports of any of these shark species, or any of their parts, into Canada is only permissible if accompanied by an export permit from the country of origin that certifies the imported shark, or products derived from it, was caught in a scientifically proven sustainable fishery.
Furthermore, proposals have been submitted to have three more added, at the sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties convention to be held in March.
To summarize, Canada has taken action against the deplorable practice of illegal shark finning. This practice has been banned in Canada since 1994. Canada believes that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong management and enforcement practices globally is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices, such as finning. A complete trade ban would penalize responsible legitimate fishing practices without addressing overfishing practices or improving global fisheries management. We will continue to support responsible, legal shark harvesters and crack down on those who break the rules.
Given the above, the government cannot support the private member's bill, Bill C-380.