Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me today to offer support for Bill C-380, an act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act, which would prohibit the importation of shark fins not attached to the rest of the shark and enshrine in legislation Canada's prohibition on finning.
I would like to thank and applaud my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for his courage in raising this important issue.
As we all know, an illegal trade in animal body parts exists in the world, such as ivory and rhino horns from Africa, tiger parts from Siberia and bear parts from North America. I am not a hunter but I understand full well the practice of killing animals for food when done in a responsible way to feed people. One might say that shooting a deer in the wild could be considered more humane than putting animals through a slaughterhouse. However, being a meat eater, as most of us are, I accept all of these practices.
On the other hand, killing animals for trophies or body parts is totally reprehensible. That is why I do not support the hunting of grizzlies in my province or anywhere else for that matter.
I have seen the documentary Sharkwater and have watched how sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and they are thrown back into the water. This practice is repulsive, immoral and is largely driven by an underground market controlled by organized crime that exploits threatened and endangered species to maximize profits.
Nearly 100 million sharks are killed every year, mainly for their fins. Trade is under-regulated, and it is almost impossible to ensure that imported fins have not been removed illegally or are not from threatened species.
Shark populations are slow to reproduce and cannot support the current overfishing. Sharks are essential to the health of marine ecosystems, and the decline in their population threatens to profoundly disrupt these ecosystems. In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that one-third of shark species were threatened with extinction because of this trade.
In a few decades, shark populations in certain areas have dropped by more than 95%, and they continue to decline. According to some experts, up to 20 shark species could disappear by 2017. In addition, it is impossible to know whether imported fins come from sustainable and respectful fishing.
Shark fin soup currently sells for between $8 and $100 a bowl in restaurants. However, in Canada as abroad, more and more people are refusing to serve or eat this kind of soup, and many Chinese restaurants have voluntarily taken this soup off their menu, including Floata in Vancouver, one of the largest Chinese restaurants in Canada.
Some municipalities in Canada have also passed, or will soon pass, bylaws prohibiting the sale of shark fins and related products. The communities in British Columbia that fall into this group are Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Duncan, Langley, the Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Port Moody and White Rock. I congratulate the municipal councils for having the courage to pass these bylaws.
The Chinese government has required that shark fin soup no longer be served at state banquets. A number of prestigious hotels have removed this type of soup from their menu. Many countries, including the Bahamas, Ecuador and Fiji, territories like French Polynesia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as the American states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington have issued similar bans.
Some people say that Bill C-380 will have an impact on international trade. Based on our research, that is not the case.
We studied the possible consequences of an import ban in relation to the WTO obligations, and we feel that this bill complies with Canada's international trade obligations. Furthermore, my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam is open to amendments at committee stage.
We need to get the bill to committee to address any concerns anyone has.
There are a number of myths about Canada's current shark fin import laws. Some elected members have suggested that Bill C-380 is unnecessary because Canada already has enough laws and that Canada bans the trade of shark products from species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) or the Species at Risk Act.
According to the Canadian branch of Humane Society International, this is false. Both CITES and SARA only protect three species of shark: basking sharks, whale sharks and great white sharks. In other words, out of 141 threatened or near-threatened shark species only 3 are protected by Canadian federal laws.
Another myth we hear is that Canada bans or restricts the trade, possession or sale of shark products that present human health or safety concerns. This is also false. Shark fins, which continue to be legally imported into Canada contain high concentrations of a potent neurotoxin, BMAA, which scientists have linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease. This is not unlike, for example, the link between phenylbutazone in horsemeat and aplastic anemia in children.
The third myth states that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong global management and enforcement practices is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices such as finning. This is also false. As long as there is a demand for shark fins, there will be local industry pressure on governments not to prohibit the practice. This demand will also perpetuate the poaching of sharks in the waters of countries that already prohibit finning.
Canada has already been identified, for example, by CSIS as a destination country for poached shark fins from Australia, even though some Australian states have some of the world's strongest shark finning laws. Eliminating the demand removes incentive for fishermen to continue finning and poaching sharks.
We have a chance in the House to do something right together, to take a major step and end this disgusting practice. At a bare minimum, I strongly urge my colleagues who are here, and others who will be here later on, to support getting Bill C-380 to committee where there can be a detailed study with feedback from witnesses, as is the case in a democratic process.
It does not hurt, in any of these crucial issues, to have some more insurance. If we think we have good laws, let us beef them up and provide more insurance to toughen them up. We can always ease back on a law after we have toughened it up, but it is really hard to try to enforce something when we do not have the legislative background to do it.