Canada has become the first country in the world banning the import and export of shark fins. This also includes a requirement to rebuild depleted fish populations.
The Senate voted for a second and final time Tuesday night in favour of an amended Bill C-68, the government’s overhaul of the Fisheries Act.
“This is just one step forward; it’s not the end, but it’s an important one and sends a signal to the world that this practice is wrong, has to be stopped, and Canada will not participate in the import of these fins anymore.”– said Senator Michael MacDonald, who first tabled a ban on shark fins in 2017 said
Canada is the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia.
According to Statistics Canada has imported 148,241 kg of shark fins in 2018, for a total value of 3.2 million Canadian dollars ($2.4 million).
“This is a huge victory for sharks and for the many Canadians, advocacy groups and politicians who joined together to champion the ban of this cruel practice,” said Kim Elmslie, the campaign director for Oceana Canada, in a statement.
Environmental and conservation groups hailed the new Fisheries Act as as a win for the preservation of fish habitats and for the shark population.
Shark fins are often used in shark fin soup, a luxury dish traditionally served at Chinese weddings and banquets.
“This is a landmark moment for sharks. It’s an incredible victory for them,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada.
“With all laws, how they’re implemented matters, but there’s no question this has the potential to be transformative for how we manage Canada’s oceans,” said Josh Laughren, executive director of Oceana Canada, a private conservation group.
Sharks often have their fins cut off while still alive, then are tossed overboard. They can no longer swim, so they sink to the bottom of the ocean and die slowly of suffocation or are eaten by other predators.
“It’s almost impossible to imagine the suffering of sharks (involved) in the shark fin trade,” Aldworth said.
“They are impaled on metal hooks, dragged onto bloody boat decks where their fins are sliced off and, while still conscious, they are tossed into the ocean. They sink to the bottom, bleeding out and suffocating slowly, as they can’t get oxygen if they don’t swim,” she added.