Fin in the News: Bill Bans Shark Fin Imports

Jason Unrau, BLACKLOCK’S Reporter

Conservatives and New Democrats are endorsing a bipartisan Senate bill to ban shark fin imports. The Commons came within five votes of passing such a ban in 2013.

“The best way to stop this practice is not to put any conditions on the source – just stop them,” said Senator Michael MacDonald (Conservative-N.S.);

“We’re being incredibly destructive by going after a top predator like this.”
MacDonald yesterday said he would introduce a private Senate bill to ban exports worth some 114,540 kilograms a year, by official estimate. Fins are used primarily for soup as an Asian delicacy, and dried and powdered as an additive in traditional Chinese medicine.

Canada banned shark finning in coastal waters in 1994, a practice that saw the animals discarded at sea. Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc in a departmental order has instructed that inspectors by 2018 halt the finning of sharks accidentally caught in longline nets by Canadian tuna and swordfish trawlers. Fin imports remain legal.

“Besides killer whales, the only real predator that sharks have is man,” said Senator MacDonald. “We have to close up an obvious loophole in the law.”

The Commons in 2013 narrowly rejected a shark fin import ban by a vote of 143 to 138. Supporters of the ban numbered members of all parties including two Conservatives, now former-MPs Terence Young (Oakville, Ont.) and James Rajotte (Edmonton-Leduc). New Democrat MP Fin Donnelly (Port Moody-Coquitlam, B.C.), sponsor of the 2013 bill, earlier estimated shark fins can yield up to $700 a pound.

“When anyone looks at how sharks are killed they are horrified,” said Donnelly, who endorsed Senator MacDonald’s bill. “Determining whether fins are from sustainable or unsustainable sources really puts the burden on agencies like the Canada Border Services Agency,” he said.

Kim Elmslie, campaign director for Oceana Canada, said finning to supply specialty markets is improper. “Sharks are a vital species and keep predators of our fisheries in check,” said Elmslie.

“Not only is it a horrible way for an incredible species to die, but sharks are being caught and killed faster than they can reproduce,” said Elmslie. Finning kills 73 million sharks a year worldwide and has destroyed up to 80 percent of some populations, bill supporters said.

Several municipalities have voted to ban the local sale of shark fins including Toronto, North Vancouver and New Westminster, B.C. U.S. states to ban finning including Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii and Illinois.