Canada becomes first country to pass comprehensive ban on shark-fin imports and exports
Canada this week became the first country in the world to impose a wholesale ban on the import and export of shark fins.
Shark finning has been illegal in Canada since 1994, but importing from other regions has continued on a wide scale.
The ban comes via Bill S-238, A Ban on Shark Fin Importation and Exportation Act. It was created by Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald and sponsored by the NDP MP Fin Donnelly.
More than 300,000 people signed a petition demanding its passage. The bill was also backed by the family of the late Rob Stewart, the conservationist filmmaker behind the Sharkwater documentaries. While he died in a scuba diving accident at the age of 37, his films brought international awareness to the cruel practice of shark finning.
Shark fin soup is hugely popular in several parts of the world, especially China.
Canada has been the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia, with 160,000 kilograms imported in 2018 alone.
The possession, sale and distribution of shark fins is banned in 12 U.S. states, including California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York and Oregon and the territory of Guam. It is also illegal in all member states of the European Union. However, one can still find restaurants that serve shark fin soup in these places.
Thanks to activist efforts, consumption in China has gone down 80 per cent since 2011. Hong Kong still accounts for 40 per cent of the global shark fin market. But Maxim, the country’s largest restaurant chain, announced last September that the fins would be banned from all their restaurants starting in January 2020.
“Today is a great day for our oceans. The overhauled Fisheries Act has the potential to be one of the most transformative things that has happened for our oceans in many years,” says Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada in a press release. “We thank Fisheries Minister Wilkinson and former Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc for prioritizing rebuilding fish populations. The Act now lays a strong foundation to support healthy oceans for generations to come.”
19 Canadian municipalities had previously banned shark fins. Brantford, Ont., was the first to do so in 2011.
Other cities such as Calgary, Mississauga and Toronto followed suit that same year, but their bans were overturned in 2012 and 2013.
The Fisheries Act also requires rebuilding plans for depleted fish populations. Such plans have not been required since 1868.
In Canada, only 34 per cent of fish populations are healthy, and more than 13 per cent are critically depleted. Among 26 critically depleted populations, only five currently have rebuilding plans.
The most prized shark fins can run for US$450 per pound.
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