Speech on Shark Fin Import Ban, second hour of debate (C-380)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues for participating in this second hour of debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-380, which seeks to ban the importation of shark fins to Canada and enshrine in legislation Canada's current prohibition on shark finning.

I will conclude second reading debate on this bill by addressing a few key points.

First, there is a strong need for this ban. Since the first hour of debate, an important new study has come out, authored by a group of well-respected scientists. It found approximately 100 million sharks were killed each year, although it stated that this number could range as high as 273 million, which is far above sustainable fishing levels. It concludes:

Global total shark mortality...needs to be reduced drastically in order to rebuild depleted populations and restore marine ecosystems with functional top predators.

Its findings gained international media attention for it provided further evidence that the global shark fin trade was driving the depletion and likely extinction of numerous shark species around the world.

Canada can become a world leader in shark conservation and ocean stewardship by moving forward with a shark fin import ban, which would prevent over 100 tonnes of shark fins from being imported to Canada each year.

The shark fin trade in Canada, in which currently participates, drives the horrific practice of shark finning. Many of my colleagues have spoken to that. It drives the illegal targeting of threatened and endangered species, some of which are supposed to be protected under CITES.

Earlier this year I sent each of my colleagues a DVD of the film, Sharkwater, which shows how, even in jurisdictions that have banned shark finning, organized crime drives a hugely profitable black market. In Canada recent DNA testing has proven that fins from endangered sharks are commonly imported into the country. In 2012 testing of 56 fins obtained in Vancouver and Richmond stores showed 76% came from threatened and endangered sharks. Similar results were obtained from a 2010 study.

Canada has seen numerous municipalities move forward with local bans on the sale and trade of shark fin. They are explicitly asking the federal government to also take action. There is no excuse for the government to drag its feet on this time sensitive conservation crisis.

Experts predict that if current trends continue, up to 20 shark species could be functionally extinct within this decade. In a few decades, some regional shark populations may decline over 95%.

Shark conservation is an issue about which Canadians care deeply. They recognize the grave threat posed to ocean health by the continued targeting of these important apex predators. Sharkwater filmmaker, Rob Stewart, who wrote to MPs this week in support of my bill, stated:

The removal of sharks from marine ecosystems will gravely destabilize the balance of the oceans and may lead to the eventual disappearance of other populations, including commercially caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food chain. We need to take action in order to avoid a potential ecological crisis.

I would also like to draw to the attention of my colleagues an editorial published in the Toronto Star yesterday, authored by city councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam of Toronto and Kerry Jang of Vancouver, as well as Joanna Hui, founder of the Ethical Chinese Consumers Alliance. They stated, “banning shark fins is not an attack on the Chinese culture”.

All three are leaders in the Chinese Canadian community. All three are leading efforts to halt the trade of shark finning. They also point out that in Canada and around the world, Chinese leaders are the ones leading and supporting efforts to implement bans on the shark fin trade. A poll by Environics, released last week, indicated 81% of Canadians would support a federal importation ban on shark fins.

The world has acted before to stop the targeting of elephants for their ivory and rhinos for their horns. Sharks are another example of demand for a single high-value animal part driving the unsustainable slaughter and waste of an entire animal.

It is imperative that Canada take immediate action to halt our role in the destructive and often illegal shark fin trade. The health of our oceans is at risk, as is the survival of sharks.

I ask all colleagues to support my private member's bill. Let us get this important bill before committee so that it can be thoroughly studied.