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.