Canada, the largest importer of shark fins outside Asia, has passed a landmark bill that includes measures to prohibit the trade in shark fins nationally as well as finning in Canadian waters.
Humane Society International/Canada joined Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and the Canadian Coast Guard in announcing this historic achievement for sharks this morning. This tremendous victory will help further reduce the global demand for shark fins, which leads to the slaughter of tens of millions of sharks each year.
This is a bloody trade that shows no mercy to its victims. The struggling shark is dragged out of the water, impaled through the jaw on a sharp metal hook, and then pulled onto a boat deck where, one by one, his fins are sliced off. The still conscious shark is tossed back into the ocean where he slowly sinks to the bottom, bleeds out and suffocates because he can’t get oxygen without swimming.
The massive global demand for shark fins has been a primary cause of shark population declines worldwide. Fins from as many as 100 million sharks are traded throughout the world every year. This commerce is unsustainable — some shark populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in recent decades, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that up to one-quarter of shark and ray species are at risk of extinction.
HSI/Canada has campaigned for a decade for the national ban that passed today. In that time, 19 Canadian municipalities have banned sales of shark fins, while five federal bills and one provincial bill were introduced to ban the shark fin trade.
Canada is the first of the Group of 20, an international forum that includes some of the world’s largest economies, to ban the shark fin trade, and we are hopeful that others in this powerful group will follow suit.
At HSI and the Humane Society of the United States, we have worked on ending the global demand for shark fins through public education and legislation. Our HSI affiliates have achieved bans on shark finning in India, Taiwan and the European Union. Stateside, we have worked to get shark fin trade bans passed in 13 states, including Hawaii and Texas, and three U.S. territories, and more states are considering bans this year. In Congress, the Humane Society Legislative Fund pushed for the introduction of the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, which would decisively end U.S. participation in the shark fin trade. The Senate bill was passed by the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in April, bringing it one step closer to a full Senate vote, while the companion House bill now has more than 200 cosponsors.
Several dozen hotel chains, airlines and global shipping companies no longer serve or ship shark fins as a result of relentless advocacy by animal protection organizations like ours.
Any celebration of the victory today would be remiss without a mention of the groundbreaking work of Canadian photographer, author and filmmaker Rob Stewart who brought attention to this cruel practice through his 2006 film, Sharkwater. Tragically, Rob passed away two years ago in a diving accident during the making of the film’s sequel, Sharkwater Extinction, but his parents, Brian and Sandy Stewart, have worked to keep his legacy and advocacy alive. They joined us today to celebrate this victory, one that would have made their son proud. We’ll carry on the fight until shark finning is no more.