NDP MP Fin Donnelly seeks Canada-wide ban on shark fins

Georgia Straight, 28 September 2011 By Matthew Burrows

The man who swam the Fraser River twice to raise awareness about our river systems admits he has the right name for his latest campaign.

Fin Donnelly, NDP MP for New Westminster–Coquitlam, explained to the Straight that he wants a national ban on the importation of shark fins to Canada.

“They could make this happen tomorrow if they wanted to,” Donnelly said by phone from Ottawa, referring to the governing Conservatives. “That’s part of what I’m trying to do, build enough momentum so that the government can say, ‘This is a good thing. We need to create this legislation.’ ”

Donnelly said he became aware of the issue when a report, drawn up by an international panel of marine experts, came out in the summer. It painted a damning picture of the world’s oceans, but was initially buried beneath the Stanley Cup riot in the local news pages. Donnelly said the report indicated that we’re heading toward a “sixth extinction”, and the difference this time is human activity is the cause.

“So part of the reason we’re heading in that direction is that we’re losing our top predators,” Donnelly said. “And those sharks are critical in keeping the balance. They’re also slow to come to sexual maturity, so if you kill a number of the more mature sharks, it’s going to impact the population. I was staggered to learn about the numbers.”

According to Wild Aid Canada, up to 75 million sharks are killed each year, mostly to feed the shark-fin trade. Donnelly said it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number killed, as the annual catch is measured by weight, not number.

“The important thing here is that if we can as Canadians set a national standard—in other words, ban—that could have a ripple effect,” he said. “The U.S. could follow suit, as far as I understand, and then that could even influence Europe and others. Then that will have this momentum that will look to other countries to focus on the loss of these large predators in our ocean ecosystems.”

Donnelly said he has already approached other NDP MPs, and he noted that Ontario Conservative MP Bryan Hayes is interested.

Earlier this month, Dave Pasin, a park-board candidate with the Non-Partisan Association, told the Straight he also wants a Canada-wide shark-fin ban.

© Georgia Straight