In the House of Commons today, Green Leader and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands Elizabeth May presented a petition calling on the federal government to take action against shark finning, specifically the import of shark fins into Canada. Thousands of Canadians signed this petition, organized by local scuba divers in Victoria, BC, who asked Ms. May to present it to the House for consideration.
Ms. May had been planning a private members bill on this issue, but is happy to support NDP MP Fin Donnelly’s recently announced effort, if it comes to the House before her bill.
“Shark finning is an issue that many of my constituents feel strongly about as they are concerned about the drastic decline in shark populations worldwide. I am pleased to present their views to Parliament and hope they will be given due consideration and taken up in committee,” said May. “There are already restrictions against catching sharks in Canadian waters so the next step would be to stop any trade in shark fins.”
The petition calls for a ban on the possession, trade, distribution or sale of shark fins in Canada. At a press conference earlier this month, the group’s representative, Alisa Preston, explained, “Sharks are declining in numbers at an alarming rate, threatening the stability of the oceans’ ecosystem. Every year, as many as seventy million sharks are caught, stripped of their fins and thrown back into the sea, often alive, to slowly sink and either drown or be eaten by other fish. It is a wholly unnecessary and solely profit driven slaughter.”
Shark fins are used mostly for a high priced soup, considered a delicacy though shark fins have no nutritional value and are essentially tasteless. Due to overfishing, 90% of the world’s large shark populations have already been wiped out. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that more than a quarter of shark species left are threatened with extinction and another 20% are ‘near threatened’ with the northeast Atlantic population particularly vulnerable.
Many countries have already banned shark finning. In the United States, the shark finning ban started with President Bill Clinton and was strengthened this year by President Barack Obama with the Shark Conservation Act.