In June, Canada became the first G20 country to ban the import and export of shark fins. The law also includes directives to rebuild depleted fish populations. The newly passed law, called “The new Fisheries Act,” could radically change the global shark fin trade, as Canada was previously the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia.
Last year alone, over 148,241 kg of shark fins were imported into Canada, which were worth roughly $2.4 million, according to Statistics Canada. Shark fins are most commonly used for a luxury soup, which is often seen as a delicacy in Asian cultures.
According to a 2018 report from the Canadian government, 35 percent of major fish stocks in the country were healthy the previous year. Only 14 percent of the county’s fish stocks were in the cautious zone, with 10 percent in critical condition. These numbers may not seem terrible, but this is the lowest number of healthy fish stocks that the county has seen since 2011.
Sen. Michael MacDonald, one of the main proponents of the recent ban, said that, “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.”
Environmentalists and animal rights advocates are cautiously optimistic.
Josh Laughren, executive director of Oceana Canada, a private conservation group, told The Japan Times that the success or failure of this measure will come down to enforcement.
“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,” Laughren said.
Shark finning is a wasteful and inhumane practice and threshers aren't immune. Add your name now to tell Congress to prohibit the sale and trade of all shark fin products in the U.S.: https://t.co/Rqj3JBAaoH #FinBanNow pic.twitter.com/Rf7AN9XX39
— Oceana (@oceana) August 17, 2019
Shark finning has actually been illegal throughout the region since 1994, but the heavy imports through Canada continued to fuel the industry. Prior to the passage of the new law, shark fins were already banned in 19 Canadian municipalities.
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In much of the United States, shark fins are still legal. However, in 12 US states, it is illegal to sell or even possess shark fins. The European Union has similar laws, entirely banning the sale of shark fins. However, it is still possible to order shark fin soup all throughout Canada, the US, and the EU, despite these strict laws on the industry.
Animal rights activists say that shark finning is not only a threat to fish populations, but it is also a cruel industry. In this barbaric practice, a live shark is caught and has is fins removed while it is alive. The poor animal is then thrown back into the water to suffer until it dies. It is estimated that some 100 million sharks are killed every year. Considering how slow sharks reproduce, this represents a very serious threat to their species.
This is the #SharkFin trade This is an animal left to die and suffering greatly. This is because some humans want to have the "prestige" of shark fin soup This is #AnimalAbuse #DefendTheWild pic.twitter.com/MH5fkelThU
— MarceTyrer XR⏳ 🌎🐜 (@marce9462) August 19, 2019
IMAGE CREDIT: Marc Henauer