Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-380, introduced by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam. I thank the member for his work on this issue. I know he has been working extremely hard to move forward on this and that he has conducted extensive consultations.
There seems to be a consensus regarding this bill, except on the part of the Conservatives, who have a habit of opposing sensible legislation.
Nevertheless, I rise here today in the hopes of convincing them, since there will be a vote on this next Wednesday, if I am not mistaken. I hope we will have the support of enough members of the House to pass this bill and send it to committee.
I thought it was important for me to rise and express my support for this bill, and that of most of my NDP colleagues, at second reading here today. From what I understand, the Liberals will also be supporting it. I hope all members of that party will do so. I also hope that the Conservatives will get on board this time in order to put an end to this problem, which is affecting more and more marine ecosystems around the world. I will come back to this point a little later.
To begin with, as usual, when I study a bill, I like to see for myself exactly what is in the legislation. The bill we are studying here today is very simple. It contains two important points.
First of all, this bill amends the Fish Inspection Act. It prohibits the importation of shark fins not attached to the rest of the shark carcass. That detail is important. It is an important aspect of the legislation that I will explain in detail a little later. Second, the bill amends the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning. I support both of these very simple, sensible clauses in the bill.
The bill adds subsection 3.1(1) to section 3 of the Fish Inspection Act to prohibit the importation of fins, with some exceptions, since special permits can nevertheless be issued.
In addition, the bill also adds subsection 32.1(1) to the Fisheries Act, prohibiting the practice of shark finning and defining that practice. Those are the two amendments this bill makes.
Why are these measures important? Why did my colleague decide to introduce this bill today? The reason is very simple: we currently have a very serious problem with our oceans. Shark species are going extinct. In fact, approximately one-third of species are currently in danger of extinction. This is therefore a critical and urgent problem that we want Canada to help solve.
I know that this bill will not eliminate the problem overnight. However, at least Canada will have sent a very clear message that we are taking measures to try to reduce this practice as much as possible because we are aware of the problem that it is currently causing.
The situation is critical. We must take action to protect and preserve our marine ecosystems. Sharks are at the very top of the ocean food chain, and so they play an extremely important role in the survival of the ecosystem in general, which would be greatly affected by the extinction of most species of sharks. Sharks are a vital component of the ecosystem.
I would like to mention some important statistics. I think that all the members who spoke today mentioned that approximately 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins.
If that trend continues, up to 20 shark species could be functionally extinct by 2017. Another important statistic: Canada imports an average of just over 100 tons of shark fins per year. According to a CTV news report, testing conducted in British Columbia to determine whether shark fins could easily be found in Canada and what species those fins came from showed that 76% of shark fins came from endangered species of sharks. That means that most shark fins in Canada come from endangered species.
How is shark finning done? In my opinion, this is a horrible, barbaric and abominable practice. It is inhumane to do what is being done right now: fishers are setting lines that are 85 km long in the hopes of catching sharks, knowing full well that many other species will be killed by this type of fishing. The sharks are even sometimes still alive when they are brought onto the boats. The sharks' fins are simply cut off and their bodies are dumped back into the ocean. Clearly, the sharks will then die because they cannot swim without their fins. It is hard to believe.
When I watched the documentary Sharkwater recently, I was quite surprised and disappointed to see that human beings are capable of being so disrespectful toward nature. These animals are basically being tortured. As I mentioned earlier, it is important that Canada send a clear message in this regard, and that is the spirit of this bill. Clearly, we object to this practice.
Earlier, I heard a member say that this could hurt the economy, but we know full well that shark meat is eaten only on rare occasions. Shark meat is rarely eaten. Most of the time, sharks are fished simply for their fins since their meat cannot be eaten because it often contains too much mercury. It is a bit of a flawed argument to say that the industry could also produce shark meat. It is a bit of a stretch to say that this would hurt the economy.
Communities that eat shark are changing their customs. The member for Brossard—La Prairie gave a speech about it. He said that the majority of communities and the new generation oppose the practice. Many countries, including China, have prohibited importing shark fins. China has also imposed restrictions, because it does not want shark fin to be served at its official banquets. The Chinese government has even signalled that it does not agree with the practice, which is a threat to our ecosystems.
I do not have much time left, so I would like to conclude by thanking my colleague once again and congratulating him. Today, Canada has a duty to send a message that we oppose this practice and we no longer want to be part of this trade, which is often a black market trade and even involves organized crime. This bill sends a clear message to the international community that we are taking this situation seriously, that we want to protect our ecosystems and that we want to protect the environment for future generations who will have to deal with the fallout of this practice if we do not put an immediate end to it.
I encourage all of my colleagues, from all sides, to support this bill and send it to committee so that any necessary amendments can be made. I know that my colleague is open to sensible proposals. At the very least, this bill should be sent to committee.