• A tiger shark

    Millions of sharks are killed each year for their fins. A bill currently before the House of Commons proposes to ban the import and export of shark fins in Canada. (Photo: Albert Kok/Wikimedia Commons)

There is a crisis in oceans around the world. Sharks are being killed for their fins, and many shark populations are experiencing rapid decline. Scientists estimate 73 million sharks are killed each year to satisfy the global demand for shark fin soup.

Most of these sharks will have their fins cut off at sea, usually while they’re still alive. Their bodies are then thrown overboard to drown or bleed to death. This horrific practice, known as ‘shark finning,’ is devastating shark populations globally. [In his final documentary, Sharkwater Extinction, late Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart drew attention to illegal shark fishing, calling it “a massive scandal representing tens of millions of sharks every year.” — Ed.]

Studies have shown many shark populations have declined by more than 80 per cent in only a few decades, with some declining by as much as 99 per cent. Currently, 141 species of sharks are listed as threatened or near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Canada is contributing to these plummeting numbers.

Although shark finning has been banned in Canadian waters since 1994, the importation of shark fins is still permitted. This is inconsistent and it should stop.

According to Statistics Canada, more than 170,000 kilograms of shark fins were imported in 2017 – a 60 per cent increase from the amount imported five years ago. Canada is a relatively small player in the world market compared to Hong Kong and mainland China, but according to the United Nations, Canada is the largest importer of shark fins outside East Asia.

As apex predators, sharks play a critical role in maintaining the health of our oceans. Canadians expect us to do a better job protecting and preserving them. That’s why I am sponsoring Bill S-238, the Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act, which passed in the Senate late last year and will now be reviewed by the House of Commons.

This bill, introduced by Senator Michael MacDonald, would prohibit the import and export of shark fins into and out of Canada. McDonald’s bill was based on my Private Member’s bill, which was narrowly defeated by five votes in the House of Commons in 2013.

At the time, my bill had support from the NDP and Liberal caucuses. I am hopeful that the Liberals, who now account for a majority in the House of Commons, will support the bill again.

With a federal election expected October 21, it is imperative that S-238 gets through debate and is reviewed by the Fisheries and Oceans standing committee before the House rises in June.

Write or call your Member of Parliament and ask them to support Bill S-238, and add your name to this petition by Oceana Canada.

Related:

Get to know Canada’s shark species

The illegal wildlife trade is a biodiversity apocalypse