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Banning the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in British Columbia

Yesterday in Member’s Statements I spoke about a remarkable group of students from Glenlyon-Norfolk School who are raising awareness about the plight of the world’s sharks. Today in the legislature I was up in Question Period. I took the opportunity to first ask the government if they would be willing to introduce legislation to ban the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in British Columbia. I followed up to see if they would be willing to work with me and other MLAs to develop a strategy that would eventually lead to banning the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in British Columbia. I received a very positive response and hope to work with MLAs from all parties to see if we can move this issue forward.


MY QUESTION


Honourable Speaker, last year Boris Worm, an internationally-renown marine conservation biologist published a paper in the Elsevier journal Marine Policy entitled “Global catches, exploitation rates and rebuilding options for sharks.” In it, he and his colleagues produced three independent estimates of the average rate that sharks are killed per year. These estimates ranged between 6.4% and 7.9%, all exceeding 4.9% per year, the amount needed to keep populations stable.

Shark finning is one of the leading causes of the decline in global shark populations, honourable speaker. Finning involves cutting off a shark’s fins and throwing their still live body back into the sea. Finned sharks suffer a slow, grueling death through starvation, drowning or gradual predation.

Madame speaker, there are already twelve municipalities in British Columbia that have shark fin bans in place. All restaurants in Victoria have taken shark fin soup off their menus. Many have done the same in Vancouver. But there is still a long way to go to protect these iconic creatures from becoming committed to extinction.

Will the government introduce legislation to ban the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in British Columbia?


MINISTER LETNICK’S RESPONSE


We understand the member opposite’s question — and thank you for the question. Obviously, there’s a lot of public concern with the harvesting and finning of sharks, and we are interested in looking at the issue.

We understand that the federal government has had a ban since 1994 on the practice of finning in domestic waters. It is controlled by CFIA, as far as the importation of fins into our province, into our country. The DFO, of course, controls the harvesting in our waters. It is federal jurisdiction. But I do want to say to the member opposite that I understand the question, and I understand the concerns.


MY SUPPLEMENTAL QUESTION


Madame speaker, in late 2012 CTV News reported that 76 percent of DNA tested dried shark fins purchased in Vancouver fell on the threatened or endangered red list from the United Nations International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In fact, honourable speaker, samples also indicated the presence of Great Hammerhead and Porbeagle fins, both of which are contained in Appendix I on the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to which Canada is a party.

Madame Speaker, section 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867 grants powers to British Columbia to legislate under “Property and Civil Rights in the Province”. Section 92(16) grants powers to legislate under “Generally all Matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province.”

Honourable speaker, I am in possession of a legal opinion that states that: “British Columbia has the authority to ban the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins” through constitutional provisions pursuant to section 92(13) and section 92(16) of our constitution.

My question is this. Will the government commit to working with me and other MLAs to develop a strategy that would eventually lead to banning the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in British Columbia?


MINISTER LETNICK’S RESPONSE


Madame Speaker, I thank you, as well, for allowing me to answer the question.

As I said before, to the best of my understanding it is federal jurisdiction. However, I look forward to seeing the documents that the hon. member will table after question period, and I’d be happy to meet with him next week to discuss the matter further.

 

3 Comments

  1. Lesley Chapman-
    November 20, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    It would be good if manta and mobula ray gill rakers could be included in this legislation. The animals are killed for their gill rakers which are used in Chinese medicine. Some of the same networks that trade in shark fins also trade in gill rakers. A sudden demand is endangering mantas, which only have one pup a year. I don’t know what demand in B.C. is for gill rakers, but by including them with shark fin legislation it sends a clear message to the networks involved in these trades.

  2. Mark Neufeld-
    November 20, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    If I’m not mistaken, Andrew gives the government side the questions ahead of time. It stands to reason, then, that the two studies and one law referenced here were available to help Minister Letnick better his understanding previous to his response defering responsibility to the federal government. To the “best of my understanding”, it’s called research. And when two guys in a lone MP’s office out-research all of the support available to the government side on an issue a morally simple to navigate as this one, it seems to me that David just kicked Goliath’s ass … again. Just sayin’.

    • November 21, 2014 at 7:18 am

      Hi Mark, I only give the Minister my first question as the answer depends on what the minister says. If the Minister had just said “yes, good idea, we’re talking about this” I would have responded with a different question. I meet with the Minister on monday.