Bill C-380, a private members’ bill that proposed to ban the importation of shark fins into Canada, is dead in the water after it didn’t survive second reading in the House of Commons Wednesday.
NDP MP Fin Donnelly’s bill was voted down 143-138.
Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP James Lunney voted against the bill, saying the legislation it intended to amend, the Fish Inspection Act, had been previously repealed and that his government is working with nations that allow shark finning to reach a solution.
“This bill will not accomplish what you want it to accomplish,” said Lunney prior to the vote. “Our government dislikes shark finning as much as anybody, it’s a terrible practice, but we are working with our international partners to make sure we find an effective way to put a stop to this.”
Lunney added it would be difficult to impose a ban on shark imports entirely, noting sharks are part of a legal fishery in many countries, including a budding spiny dogfish industry in B.C. waters.
He also said Canada’s Fisheries Act is one of the oldest on record and needs updating.
An estimated 100 tons of shark fins are imported into Canada annually. About 100 million sharks are killed around the world every year for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. The practice of shark finning, where fishermen remove the fins of sharks and throw them back into the ocean to die, was banned in Canadian waters in 1994.
In a statement, Donnelly said he was disappointed his bill did not pass but added it was not in vain.
“We’ve raised awareness of the importance of shark conservation and pushed a national debate on Canada’s role in the wasteful, unsustainable and often illegal trade of shark fins,” he said.
“I will continue to push the government to take immediate action to restrict shark fin imports to our country.”
Marley Daviduk, a Nanaimo resident who has been working with the Vancouver Animal Defence League to have shark fin imports banned in Canada, said Wednesday’s vote is proof that Conservative MPs are not working for their constituents.
“It was clear Prime Minister Stephen Harper had his own opinion about this ban,” she said. “The latest poll says 81 per cent of Canadians support a shark fin ban, so what kind of democracy is that?”
She noted, however, that the publicity surrounding the subject of shark finning has reduced demand for the product.
“That’s good, but it’s not enough,” added Daviduk. “Ninety per cent of the sharks are gone, we know that. We’re at the same place now where whaling was in 1986 and our government is doing nothing.”
Nanaimo city council approved a ban on shark fins and their derivatives from being sold in local restaurants and retailers earlier this year. Continued disregard of the bylaw could land businesses a $10,000 fine and, ultimately, a revoked business licence.
Both the provincial Liberal and NDP parties favour a provincewide ban on shark imports.
The failure of Bill C-380 comes less than a month after the United Nation’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species added five more shark species to its protected list — scalloped, smooth and great hammerheads, porbeagle and oceanic white tips now join great white, basking and whale sharks as globally protected species.
An investigation last October by the Vancouver Animal Defence League revealed that porbeagle, scalloped and great hammerhead fins were on retail shelves in Vancouver and Richmond.