THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES AND OCEANS
OTTAWA, Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, to which was referred Bill S-238, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (importation of shark fins), met this day at 5 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good evening, my name is Fabian Manning from Newfoundland and Labrador. I am pleased to chair this evening’s meeting. Before I give the floor to our witnesses, I would ask the members of the committee to introduce themselves, beginning on my immediate right.
Senator Gold: Marc Gold from Quebec.
Senator Bovey: I am Pat Bovey from Manitoba.
Senator Plett: Senator Plett also from Manitoba.
Senator Ringuette: Pierrette Ringuette from New Brunswick.
Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.
Senator McInnis: Tom McInnis from Nova Scotia.
The Chair: We may have some other senators joining us. The chamber is still sitting.
Our guests this evening are from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Randy Jenkins, Acting Senior Director, Integrated Resource Management; Brian Lester, Assistant Director, Integrated Resource Management; Nadia Bouffard, Director General, External Relations. From Environment and Climate Change Canada, we have Basile van Havre, Director General, Domestic and International Biodiversity Policy.
On behalf of the members of the committee, I thank you for being here today. I understand there are some opening remarks. I believe Randy will go first, followed by Mr. van Havre. Following the presentations, the members of the committee will have questions for you. The floor is yours, Randy.
Randy Jenkins, Acting Senior Director, Integrated Resource Management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Thank you chair and members of the committee for the invitation to address you this evening with regard to Senate Bill S-238.
My name is Randy Jenkins and I am the Acting Senior Director for Integrated Resource Management at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s national headquarters here in Ottawa.
The information that I will be providing to you this evening will only address that portion of the proposed bill that refers to an amendment to the Fisheries Act and specifically the prohibition on the practice of shark finning.
Pelagic sharks live in the open waters of the seas and oceans, and many species are highly migratory. Shark species can be found in the fisheries waters off Canada’s Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts. Some of these populations are considered to be local or resident populations; others may frequent our waters through their migrations along the vast areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean waters.
Canada manages the harvest of shark species through a commitment to ecological sustainability, integrated fisheries management, and the precautionary approach, under the authority of a fishing licence issued pursuant to the Fisheries Act.
Canada does not have a directed fishery for pelagic sharks. Most licence holders in Canada are prohibited from retaining any shark bycatch and, by licence condition, they are required to release any sharks caught incidentally in a manner that causes the least amount of injury to the shark. However, there are two fisheries in Atlantic Canada where incidental or bycatch of sharks is permitted: the pelagic longline fishery and the inshore fixed gear groundfish fishery.
Domestically, Canada manages shark bycatches through integrated fisheries management plans or through shark conservation plans, together with surveillance and enforcement programs. Such efforts are guided by the principles of the precautionary approach and implemented through licence conditions.
For the most part, only shortfin mako sharks, approximately 60 to 70 tonnes per year, and some porbeagle sharks that are dead on retrieval to the fishing vessel are retained; recently, 20 to 30 tonnes per year as a result of incidental catches. All live sharks are released in a manner that results in the least amount of harm to the shark. Canadian landings are a very small portion, approximately 0.1 per cent of the overall global shark catches reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the FAO, which reported 790,000 tonnes in 2014.
However, Canada does have a small directed fishery for dogfish. Pursuant to the Atlantic fishery regulations, dogfish is managed as a groundfish, not as a pelagic shark. Dogfish are small sharks that are primarily harvested for their meat. Given their small size, dogfish fins are not typically used in shark fin soup.
While Canada does have a small bycatch harvest of pelagic sharks, since 2013, there have been no shark fin exports from Canada.
Internationally, Canada was one of the first countries to develop a national plan of action for the conservation and management of sharks. This plan of action was in line with the International Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Canada also plays an important role internationally in the management and conservation of shark species by working with regional fisheries management organizations such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas; the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission; the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission; and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization to adopt effective management measures to regulate shark finning. These measures include, for example, complete reporting of all shark catches, full use of shark carcasses, restrictions on shark finning, and the reduction and release of shark bycatch. Canada’s international initiatives also include working with other countries to exchange scientific information and practical expertise.
For more than two decades, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has taken measures to address the practice of shark finning, an unsustainable practice that needs to be addressed internationally for the protection of shark species.
The gold standard of fin-related shark conservation has been to implement a fins naturally attached rule. This requires fishermen to bring the shark to shore with all of their fins still partially attached to the carcass until first point of landing. This practice encourages the full utilization of the shark rather than just the fins.
As part of Canada’s management of fisheries, full utilization of harvested animals is an important principle for conservation in the Canadian fishery. The practice of finning has been prohibited in Canada since the mid-1990s. This ban has applied to Canadian fisheries waters and Canadian licensed vessels fishing outside the Canadian fishing waters.
Although the Fisheries Act does not expressly prohibit shark finning, this practice has been effectively prohibited through licence conditions, under the Fishery (General) Regulations, since 1994. Licences and their associated conditions are a legal contract between the licence holder and the department and, as such, are an effective means of controlling harvest activities. Section 22 of the Fishery (General) Regulations provides the minister the authority to establish licence conditions to ensure that the conservation of Canadian fisheries and licence holders can be prosecuted if they do not comply with their licence conditions.
While inshore groundfish harvesters are permitted to land a limited amount of sharks as bycatch, these harvesters have long been required to land pelagic sharks with fins attached. The only other fleet that is permitted to retain shark as bycatch is the Atlantic pelagic longline fleet. Harvesters from this fleet have traditionally been permitted to remove shark fins while at sea. However, the overall amount of shark fins onboard a vessel is not permitted to exceed 5 per cent of the overall weight of shark carcasses on board. All landings of sharks by this fleet have been 100 per cent monitored, at point of landing, by an independent dockside monitor to ensure that the percentage was not exceeded and that the number of fins landed correlated to the number of carcasses retained.
Domestically, as of March 2018, Canada will be implementing a mandatory “fins attached” requirement for all sharks landed in any fishery through changes in licence conditions for the pelagic longline feet. This new measure will explicitly require that all pelagic sharks harvested by the fleet be landed with their fins attached until after the point of landing.
The landing with fins attached requirement is in place for several important fishing partners including, the United States and the European Union.
At the September 2016 meetings of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, Canada supported a recommendation that now requires that any sharks caught as bycatch, in fisheries regulated by the organization, be landed with the fins naturally attached.
At the November 2017 meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, ICCAT, along with other member countries, Canada put forward a similar recommendation that would have required that fins remain attached for any sharks landed in association with fisheries regulated by the ICCAT organization. Unfortunately, this recommendation was not adopted by the organization at the most recent meeting.
The full fins-attached requirement for pelagic shark landings will further strengthen Canada’s approach to eliminating the practice of shark finning and put Canada in line with the current global best practice for responsible fisheries management of sharks. With this change, as of 2018, all Canadian fisheries are now subject to the fins-attached requirement.
As you will note, the issue of shark finning is not new to Canada or to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We have been effective in eliminating this practice domestically for more than 20 years, and we will continue to work internationally to support movement towards fins-attached policies and requirements in other countries and fisheries organizations.
The Canadian commitment to fins attached is well understood by Canadian harvesters and this will be clearly outlined in the 2018 licence conditions.
With me this evening are two of my colleagues from Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Nadia Bouffard, Director General, External Relations; and Brian Lester, Assistant Director, Integrated Resource Management, who is also the staff officer responsible for sharks in our division. We would be very happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Basile van Havre, Director General, Domestic and International Biodiversity Policy, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada: Thank you, Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to address you this evening with regard to Bill S-238, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (importation of shark fins).
My name is Basile van Havre. I am the Director General for the Domestic and International Biodiversity Policy Directorate within Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service.
It is a pleasure to be back here today on behalf of Environment and Climate Change Canada, this time as part of your study of Bill S-238.
As you may know, the department’s business is diverse: protecting the environment, conserving the country’s natural heritage, and providing weather and meteorological information to keep Canadians informed and safe.
With respect to the conservation of our natural heritage, the department implements a range of programs. In addition to fulfilling a federal and national leadership role for biodiversity conservation, we act to protect migratory birds and to conserve species at risk. We regulate trade in wild plants and animals, as well as manage and protect our network of national wildlife areas and migratory bird sanctuaries. In addition, we work collaboratively with others, through a number of stewardship and incentive programs, to foster and support action by Canadians to conserve our nature.
We protect and conserve wildlife and its habitat by overseeing the implementation of five federal acts: the Species at Risk Act, SARA; the Canada Wildlife Act, CWA; the Migratory Birds Convention Act, MBCA; provisions of the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act, AEPA; and finally the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, WAPPRIITA.
The WAPPRIITA is used for international trade and for maintaining agreements and memoranda of understanding with our provinces and territories for enforcing interprovincial wildlife trade with respect to the import of wildlife, including sharks. Our work focuses on the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as CITES.
CITES came into force in 1975 and has been adopted by over 180 countries, including Canada. It sets controls on the trade in and international movement of animal and plant species that have been or may become threatened with overexploitation as a result of trade. The species afforded protection by CITES are identified by the parties to the convention and are listed in one of three appendices to the convention, according to the degree of protection they deserve.
Appendix I is a list of species that are threatened with extinction. Trade in these species is strictly regulated to ensure their survival, and trade for commercial purposes is prohibited.
Appendix II lists species that are not currently threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is strictly regulated to avoid overexploitation. Also listed in Appendix II are what we call “look-alike species” that are regulated to provide additional protection to other species listed in Appendix II. Many species with healthy populations within Canada, such as the black bear and the grey wolf are listed in Appendix II for this purpose.
In Appendix III, individual parties to the convention may list species that are found within their borders and are subject to regulation, and where the cooperation of other parties is needed in order to manage international trade in those species. For example, Canada has listed the walrus in this appendix.
Domestically, the legislative vehicle through which Canada meets its international obligations under CITES is the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, WAPPRIITA. The purpose of WAPPRIITA is generally to regulate trade and international and interprovincial movement of wild animals and plants managed for conservation purposes, including by implementing the obligations taken under CITES. The Act also regulates the importation of species that could be harmful to Canadian species or ecosystems.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for administering the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, and has been designated as the management authority for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Canada.
As management authority, the department is responsible for verifying and validating requests for international trade of CITES-listed animals and plants originating from or destined for Canada. This responsibility includes activities such as issuing CITES permits and certificates, and reporting. The responsibility is shared with colleagues from Fisheries and Oceans Canada for aquatic species, including sharks.
Both departments have also designated scientific authorities, who are responsible for determining whether or not the international trade of a species is detrimental to the survival of the species. This responsibility includes monitoring the international trade of wildlife and the level of non-compliance in Canada to ensure that current levels of trade are sustainable.
Finally, the enforcement of WAPPRIITA is the responsibility of Environment and Climate Change Canada and is carried out in cooperation with a number of other federal agencies — mainly the Canada Border Services Agency — and with provincial and territorial wildlife agencies. Compliance with WAPPRIITA is verified by conducting inspections at ports of entry, auditing importers and exporters, inspecting wildlife businesses, gathering intelligence and sharing information with national and international agencies, including following up on tips provided by the public.
CITES and WAPPRIITA provide restrictions on the trade of sharks for conservation purposes. Ten shark species are listed under CITES Appendix II, as well as in Schedule I of WAPPRIITA’s implementing regulations: oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, basking, great white, porbeagle, whale, silky and thresher.
Appendix II of CITES lists species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. Should a shark listed on Appendix II be exported, the exporting country needs to affirm that the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild and that the specimen was not obtained in contravention of the laws of the country for the protection of fauna and flora.
The role of Environment and Climate Change Canada is to ensure that the appropriate documentation is provided. We inspect for compliance to identify the specimen in trade when there is doubt of its identity or origin, and we investigate infractions and recommend charges to prosecutors.
The key issue with regard to the trade of shark fins under the existing system is that it is difficult to visually determine which species the fins were taken from. This is due to the fact that the fins are dried and marketed separately from other shark products — for example, the meat. The World Customs Organization’s Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System — which is known as the HS code — for shark fins is goods-specific and does not distinguish shark fins at the species level.
The current international system for species protection is comprehensive and effective. Every three years, new species are added or withdrawn from the CITES system based on a thorough review of the individual circumstances. It is in Canada’s interest to work through the international institutions to ensure that decisions are accepted by all. This makes for a stronger CITES that benefits both global conservation and Canada’s national interests. Canada contributes to CITES by making its expertise available and benefits from the system in return. We take our responsibilities for implementing the international obligation acquired through the CITES very seriously and this is recognized globally.
Thank you, again, for inviting me to appear today. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
The Chair: Thank you both for your presentations. We will go to our deputy chair, Senator Gold, for our first question.
Senator Gold: Welcome. Thank you for the good work you do.
Does the bill that we are studying today pose any problems, as far as you can see, or is there any conflict with existing legislation, regulations or international obligations that Canada is a party to?
Nadia Bouffard, Director General, External Relations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Thank you for the question, senator. The department is still assessing the bill. Of course, in assessing legislation like this, we look at the scope of the mandates of departments and various legislation that is being proposed for amendments. We also look at our international obligations and trade commitments. We can’t tell you at this juncture the results of our assessment, but we are looking at all of those, and they are all very relevant to our assessment of the proposed bill.
Senator Gold: Can you give us some indication of how long it might take you to arrive at sufficient confidence in your conclusion that you could share it with us?
Ms. Bouffard: Of course, the government is going to have to take a position with respect to the bill, and we will provide advice in that respect. We just don’t have the position at this moment. We don’t have conclusions with respect to our assessment of the legislation.
There are complex matters especially associated with the trade aspects of the bill and our trade obligations.
The one thing we can say in relation to the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act is that, as stated in the opening remarks by Mr. Jenkins, since 1994, Canada has taken many measures to deal with shark finning at sea through our regulations and licence conditions, and we are taking the last step required to have the last fleet — which is currently subject to different rules — subject to the new gold standards associated to fins attached while landing in port. In that respect, the proposed amendment to the Fisheries Act seems to have been addressed through licence conditions that would be imposed on that last fleet.
Senator Gold: Is it a vain hope to hope that I might get an answer from someone else as well?
Mr. van Havre: We will be working together. Basically, I will only repeat what my colleague said earlier. It is important to do a full analysis. We tried to present the characteristics of the existing act and what it can do. In terms of the analysis, I am sure that, like us, you have your own legal advice, and hopefully that will provide the same conclusion.
Senator Plett: Thank you to all four of you for being here.
I don’t think I will bother pursuing that any further. I was going to go along the same line of questioning as Senator Gold. I sincerely hope that, before we go to clause-by-clause on this bill, that we will have good direction from the government as to whether they are supportive of this bill, because certainly that is very important in terms of what we do here.
I will now focus on a few other issues.
I am not sure whom I should ask this, so I will throw it out there. How big of a problem is this? I asked the sponsor of this bill how many pounds or tonnes we import of shark fins and how many shark fins are harvested in Canada, and he wasn’t able to give me an answer. He assured me that when the officials come, they will have all the answers. I am hoping he was right in that and that you will give me exact answers as to how big of a problem this is.
Brian Lester, Assistant Director, Integrated Resource Management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada: I can speak to the domestic fishery. As Mr. Jenkins noted, the Canadian fishery is a bycatch fishery, with the exception of a small dogfish fishery and some skate fisheries.
Senator Plett: Can you explain a bycatch fishery to me, please?
Mr. Lester: For example, a fisherman goes out and targets one species, and in the case that Mr. Jenkins just noted, the pelagic longline, typically swordfish or other tuna. The line, when they haul it back, will sometimes have sharks. A hook is indiscriminate when it’s in the water. When sharks come back, if they are alive, they are released; if they’re dead, they are brought in.
Senator Plett: What is done with them when they’re brought in? If they are dead, what is done to them?
Mr. Lester: They will be processed. There is a market for both fins and meat. We don’t know the domestic market for meat, because it is interprovincial trade. There is an export of Canadian — I don’t know the exact amount off the top of my head, but it is not significant in terms of meat.
Senator Plett: And the fins would be sent to areas where restaurants specialize in shark fin soup?
Ms. Bouffard: We know what comes into Canada and we know what is exported out of Canada. However, we don’t actually monitor the trade within Canada.
For Canadian products that are caught in Canadian waters or landed in Canada, our export statistics show that anywhere between $500,000 and $2 million worth of sharks landed in Canada or imported into Canada are exported, and it is meat. From the statistics we have, there haven’t been any exports of shark fins from Canada since 2013.
Senator Plett: But there have been imports?
Ms. Bouffard: There have been imports. In terms of imports, the last statistics we have date to 2015. Shark fins imported at about 1.2 per cent of the total shark fin imports statistics globally, which amounts to about $2.5 million. The average price for shark fins on global markets, it varies according to species, is about $22 a kilogram. With those statistics, you can see that a very small percentage of shark fins are actually imported in Canada. They are mostly from Hong Kong and China.
The other thing is, for instance from 2005 to 2015, we have seen a drastic decline of trade in shark fins globally of about 60 per cent, and the decline in terms of imports into Canada by about 60 per cent.
Senator Plett: I gather from the sponsor of the bill that the biggest issue is the way they are harvested, as opposed to the fact that we are importing shark fins. The fins are sliced off and the rest of the shark is thrown overboard and is swimming around there until it dies.
In your experience, is that a big problem with the shark fin that we are importing? You’re saying it’s coming from Hong Kong and China. Is there clear evidence that they are doing this?
Ms. Bouffard: There is no way for us to identify, currently in the system when shark fins come into Canada, whether or not they come from sustainable fisheries or not. Even one species of shark that migrates, like tuna and swordfish, will be subject to different management regimes in various countries and on the high seas.
As pointed out by colleagues that manage the resource in Canada, which is well managed and sustainably managed, the same shark species can go into another country’s waters and not be sustainably managed. When it comes in, we actually don’t know what rules it may be subject to in those various countries.
Senator Plett: I gather we have laws that we cannot do this in Canada, unless it’s done by accident. What are the laws right now? Are there any restrictions for fisheries or restaurants, whoever, to import shark fin or any other parts of a shark right now from out of the country? Do we have any laws or restrictions at all?
Mr. van Havre: For the 10 species that are listed under CITES, we require an Appendix II permit. If there is a shipment to Canada without an Appendix II permit or fraudulent information on the permit, we would have the authority to detain the shipment and prosecute the importer or the issuer of the permit. That information would be fed into the INTERPOL system and action should be taken in the country of origin. That’s for the 10 species that are listed under CITES.
Senator Plett: What kind of penalty is there for this?
Mr. van Havre: It depends. My head of enforcement is in the back and could give us an example of the penalty.
Senator Plett: Thank you.
Mr. van Havre: If that’s acceptable to the chair.
Sheldon Jordan, Director General, Enforcement Branch, Wildlife Enforcement, Environment and Climate Change Canada: I’m sorry, sir. I was sitting at the back. Would you mind repeating the question?
The Chair: I need you to introduce yourself for the record.
Mr. Jordan: My name is Sheldon Jordan. I am the Director General of Wildlife Enforcement for Environment and Climate Change Canada. My role is to manage the group that regulates and enforces the trade regulations with regard to endangered species entering or leaving Canada.
Senator Plett: Thank you for being here. My question is what kind of a penalty is imposed on an organization that is illegally importing into Canada, or a boat or whatever the case may be, and bringing in shark fin illegally? Your colleagues said it would be confiscated, I’m assuming, and something would be done with it. I hope they wouldn’t just throw it in a landfill. Nevertheless, there should be some penalties for that.
Mr. Jordan: The penalties under WAPPRIITA, Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, range from a maximum penalty of $500,000 to five years in prison as a maximum as an indictable offence. Under summary offence, I believe — and I might be wrong on this because the law just recently changed — it’s $100,000 and two years in prison for a summary offence.
Senator Watt: I was going to ask the same questions raised by the first person, but you don’t seem to have an answer at the moment. If I’m correct, you are waiting for the government to give you the signal of what answers need to be provided.
I do not want to go so much into the shark fin issue, but to the other responsibilities that the Department of Fisheries and Ocean has.
I'm from the North, the Arctic, and I just did a tour around some communities very recently. A lot of matters were brought to my attention, and I’m not entirely sure whether you are monitoring them. When there is human extraction of certain species, there seems to be a big concern. At times, when there is an impact by a project, the government seems to lack responsibility.
I wonder if you could give me some kind of direction or answer. Your department has responsibility over the migratory birds, migratory birds in very broad terms, and I’m talking about geese and other migratory birds. There are other species that have been impacted by huge projects undertaken in the past, and now we are starting to see the impact of those and also on different species and on the land. The river that normally flows on the other side of the bay is being diverted to the Hudson Bay coast, as an example. There are a lot of questions related to that, but let me try to simplify it so that you can take notice of it.
The geese are no longer migrating through in the normal pattern that they used to fly from the south to the Hudson Bay coast. That’s one issue.
All kinds of fauna are being impacted and affected. But when you begin to look at the diverse river that has been diverted from the other side to the Hudson Bay coast, there is a great deal of impact on the living species in the water, due to the fact that there is freshwater flowing into the salt water, and the salt water doesn’t have the same kind of texture that the species are used to.
To me, that is a very heavily neglected area, and I’m asking you to see whether you are planning to put in place some important mechanism or a way of monitoring it better than the way it is today, because you have no monitoring system. Hydro-Québec never thought of the idea of putting in a monitoring system with regard to what happens to the species and so on. That applies to the whales, the walrus, the seals and the fish, such as small species under the ground, like mussels, for example.
The zoology is starting to spread into the Hudson Bay coast. As you know, James Bay is not the only hydro project that is flowing into Hudson Bay. You have Manitoba on one hand and Ontario on the other hand. The whole area of the Hudson Bay coast is beginning to be alarming. I just want to put that on the notice. I know that’s not the issue we are talking about today, but it’s very important because this is an issue. If one of the Inuk people happen to take one whale by mistake, miscount it or whatever, that person will be brought to justice.
What is happening to the other aspects, such as developments of a huge magnitude like the hydro development? Why can’t we put them to the test? That’s another issue. I think it is important for you to know.
I really don’t have that much of a question. Is there a federal input into that provincial jurisdiction which, in a sense, is flowing into the federal jurisdiction — the water that is flowing from the mainland into Hudson Bay? It’s a combination of two jurisdictions, and I think we had better get a handle on that. It’s becoming very dangerous.
The Chair: Thank you Senator Watt. As Senator Watt touched on, that’s not necessarily the purpose of our meeting this evening. I don’t know if anyone wants to take a couple of minutes to respond or if you want to get back to Senator Watt. It’s totally up to you.
Mr. van Havre: It’s always a pleasure for me to talk about our migratory birds. I’ve been working on migratory birds for more than 10 years now, and you’re talking about issues that are very dear to me personally.
You are talking about changing the pattern of migration of our geese and changing conditions in Hudson Bay related to hydroelectric projects. We have done research, and Dr. Grant Gilchrist from our research establishment has spent pretty much his whole career studying that area, in particular, migratory birds, and the interaction between the various species.
It is clear there is change in migratory patterns. The difficulty is to associate those changes with one phenomenon or the others. We all know about the magnificent Arctic geese migration that took place for decades, if not centuries, and they would stage near Quebec City at Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area. If you have been there recently, there are a lot fewer of them. They migrate through different places. They are still there by the thousands and thousands, but those are changes that we are witnessing and having difficulty to understanding.
Your point that there is change in the characteristics of the waters that may have an influence on the ecosystem is one that is well documented. The collaboration between the various levels of government, in terms of environmental impact evaluation of major projects, like hydroelectric ones, are well understood. We input our scientific knowledge into those processes.
You talked about the change in the various elements of the ecosystem and the relationship between those migratory birds and other organisms, and in particular with plankton and algae. We are noticing those changes. It’s interesting to see the cumulative effect of those changes. On one side, when you have a hydroelectric development, you get more fresh water and lower temperatures. What we document at the other end, in Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay, is the warming of the temperature. You can have a balancing act. It’s very hard to draw a conclusion based on the change of pattern to what is happening in the physical environment.
I would be pleased to put you in contact with Dr. Gilchrist. He is an eloquent speaker and he has numerous pieces of research that could be of interest to you in showing the interaction between the various species of the ecosystem.
Senator Watt: You’re still not answering my question. Is there any federal input into those areas in terms of need for a monitoring system? That’s the question I asked. You don’t have to answer that right now.
Senator McInnis: Good evening, folks, and thank you for coming. Last week, we had Professor Steinke appear before us, and he told us that he collected 29 samples of shark fins that were available on the market in Canada, China and Sri Lanka, of which 71 per cent came from species listed at risk. In other words, they would be banned from international trade under CITES.
My question is this: What authority does that convention have on policing any aspect of this? What can you do?
It was a surprise to me last week and, in fact, I made a comment that there were a million sharks killed in the previous year, I think it was. Actually, it was 100 million that were taken, so it strikes me that we have a crisis.
There are 183 countries that have signed on under CITES. You speak directly here about Appendix I, which would be endangered, and Appendix II, which would be pending or, if not monitored, close to being endangered and extinct.
One of the speakers made comments to this effect, and listening to you tonight it seems to me that you’re placing a lot of trust in these countries as far as making sure the exporting country affirms that the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. Well, who is checking that and who is controlling it?
I’m quite old, okay? I remember when the offshore zone was expanded. It was expanded because this particular country was overfishing big time. There was no trust. Now we’re asking them to affirm, but can we trust that any of those 183 signatories to CITES are not taking these Appendix I or Appendix II species?
Mr. van Havre: Thank you. That’s a very important question.
Three weeks ago, I was in Geneva at a meeting of one of the subsidiary bodies of CITES. That’s called a standing committee of the CITES. This committee has been vested by the conference of the parties with authority to take sanctions. I presented to the committee related to elephants and ivory and we imposed trade sanctions on five countries. That’s just one species.
There is a system in CITES where there are ways to ensure that the country first has the legal framework that enables them to take action. That’s called a legal review. At each of our meetings, we review the list and the progress on the list. If a country is not moving from the category where there is inadequate legislation to a category that it is either in progress or in place, they could face a sanction again.
If you go to the record, you will see that there are questions about the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao and those kinds of countries. That’s just on the first round, which is whether there is a law in those countries that enable it to take action.
After that, there is a system of reporting in terms of whether there are adequate enforcement activities. That’s where our action in CITES is to see the reports on seizures, et cetera, but also there is a mechanism under INTERPOL to do the follow-up.
You also asked about whether we can trust the permits that are issued by other countries and whether we can trust their non-detrimental findings. That has been a problem in the past.
Canada sponsored a workshop to establish standard procedures on how to establish those NDF. It was done five years ago, I believe. So there are now standard procedures in terms of how it is done.
I’ll let colleagues from Fisheries and Oceans talk, but with the listing of new shark species at the last COPP in 2016, there was a period of one year to enable countries to be ready to be able to issue permits for the new species. There were a number of workshops around the world to enable that.
I can tell you that those systems are pretty stringent. Countries that are facing sanctions are taking that very seriously. They are lobbying us hard to not have those sanctions, but we’re very strong in our determination to have a rigid, impartial and transparent system, because our capacity to enable sustainable, legal trade depends on our capacity to stop illegal and unsustainable trade.
Ms. Bouffard: Brian, do you want to continue on the shark?
Mr. Lester: In terms of what Mr. van Havre said, in 2016, the porbeagle shark — which is one of the two sharks we actually have small landings of — was put on Appendix II. With that requirement, it was noted we have one year to undertake an NDF or non-detrimental finding where science looks at the current landings and the mortalities associated with Canadian fisheries.
The amount that Canada would have harvested in a year at that time was probably 40 or 50 tonnes. It’s probably been reduced now to 15 to 20 tonnes. The small markets we did have prior to the listing have basically disappeared, so current landings are in the range of probably 15 to 20 tonnes.
The last science assessment was done based on a number of years of science work. It indicated at the time any landings below 185 tonnes in a year would likely result in the stock rebuilding over a period of, I think it was, 20 to 40 years, but that’s not uncommon in shark species that are long-lived.
With our current mortalities, the expectation is — that assessment was done, I believe, in 2009; our average landings in most recent years is probably 30 or 40 tonnes -- that there should be even additional growth over what we have had in the past. The problem is, with a really small fishery, it’s difficult to get science statistics, so the most recent assessment, I think, will have to take into consideration that we don’t have any directed fishery and we’re relying strictly on just the information that we gain from bycatches in those other fisheries.
When we did our non-detrimental finding, they looked at the Canadian catches. They were far below the 185 that was determined under recovery potential assessment, which was done as part of the SARA process. We believe that the current catch with the exports could be exported if it was required, so permits are issued if there are any exports, but there are not significant exports of porbeagle shark with our landings of about 15 to 20 tonnes a year.
Senator McInnis: You’re talking about Canada. I’m not. I’m talking about the international. There’s the problem. That’s what I want to know. What are you doing with the 183 countries and others? What is taking place? That’s where the serious problem is. I think this bill will certainly help us here in Canada, but we’re not the big player.
If there are 100 million sharks being slaughtered and many of the fins being taken off while these animals are still alive, what is taking place internationally?
Ms. Bouffard: I think our colleague from Environment would like to add a point. I think it would be important for us to flag the work in the RFMOs as well.
Mr. Jordan: Thank you. Just to take a step back, I am the past chair of INTERPOL’s Wildlife Crime Working Group.
Environmental crime worldwide, in a 2016 study by the United Nations Environment Programme that was co-signed by INTERPOL, found that environmental crime was worth some $253 billion per year, give or take a few billion dollars. I was talking in U.S. dollars, so it’s worth a lot more billion dollars in Canadian.
This was a study that looked at all sorts of environmental crime: wildlife crime in terms of animals, fisheries crime, forestry crime, pollution crime, hazardous waste and things like that. We’re looking at a very broad spectrum.
That $253 billion, which was the top end identified by the United Nations Environment Programme and INTERPOL, makes it the fourth-highest grossing crime area in the world. It comes after illegal drugs, after human trafficking and after counterfeiting in terms of value.
Of those, let’s say, quarter trillion dollars per year of crime, approximately $100 billion of that is wildlife crime, which includes plants and animals. So your animals, like my friend Mr. van Havre was talking about with ivory, and my friend Mr. Jenkins about fisheries, that’s another $20 billion to $50 billion over and above the wildlife crime. Sorry. I think that was a little confusing.
Then you throw in all of the other environmental crime areas, from illegal mining to fisheries, illegal waste and all those things.
Okay. So I have basically confused everybody, but let’s just make it simple. Environmental crime is a big deal.
Canada is particularly involved with INTERPOL with regards to its environmental crimes program, with the Wildlife Crime Working Group, with the Fisheries Crime Working Group, which my friend, Mr. Jenkins, has been involved in, as well as the Pollution Crimes Working Group.
Canada’s impact in terms of trying to put forward a positive and strengthened law enforcement response has been pretty impressive.
That being said, looking back into Canada and what is the impact in Canada, under Canadian law, as Mr. van Havre has explained before, we have restrictions around CITES-controlled goods that are coming into the country. They require permits. They require either permits coming from the exporting country or permits from both the importing and the exporting country.
As well, we have prohibition in the WAPPRIITA which says that anything that has been taken illegally somewhere else in the world cannot be imported into Canada.
A simple example that I give is if you go across the border into, let’s say, Washington State. We’re in British Columbia and we go across the border into Washington State. You go and poach a fish or you poach a deer in Washington State. It’s illegal to bring it back into Canada. Why? Because it’s illegal to poach in Washington State.
The same thing would go with shark harvesting or any other harvesting of wildlife. It is prohibited to bring stuff that was taken illegally elsewhere in the world and bring it into Canada.
The legal frameworks are in place as long as there is a prohibition somewhere else in the world.
Senator McInnis: Second round.
The Chair: For clarity, earlier, Ms. Bouffard was talking about if there was a prohibition in place in some other country in the world, but if the fins arrive here, you are not really sure if they are coming from prohibited place in the beginning? Am I following what you’re saying?
Mr. Jordan: Essentially that is one of the challenges that we face in law enforcement, determining whether goods were taken legally or illegally. We have some tools at our availability, such as DNA testing to identify what the species are. As technology grows, there are other forensic tools that can help identify where things were taken. However, it still is a very big challenge in front of us right now in terms of law enforcement and controlling the trade. I should say that the prohibition is in place, but, given the current state of technology, it’s improving but it’s definitely not perfect.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Bovey: Thank you for coming. I’m not a regular member of the committee, so forgive me for coming from left field perhaps.
I would be interested to know how many countries actually have legislated a ban on the importation of shark fins?
Ms. Bouffard: I don’t think we know how many countries. We know of some key countries that have shark fisheries. The United States and the European Union have rules in place akin to what my colleagues have spoken to in terms of fins-attached landings requirements, but we don’t have an inventory of all the countries’ rules and laws associated with that.
Senator Bovey: We don’t know which countries have a legislated ban on the importation of shark fins.
Ms. Bouffard: We don’t have an inventory, no.
Senator Bovey: Do we know of any disputes at the World Trade Organization?
Ms. Bouffard: None to our knowledge on this, no.
Senator Bovey: Because that should be fairly easy to find.
If I can take this in a slightly different direction, whenever we look at changes in livelihood, we are obviously affecting socio-economic, cultural and historic traditions in whatever area. I would be interested for you to tell us what you feel the socio-economic, cultural and historic importance is of the shark fishery in various regions of the world.
You have talked about China and Hong Kong, but are there other parts where this particular fishery is a core, key aspect of cultural and socio-economic life?
Ms. Bouffard: I don’t have statistics or information specific to which country and how important it is from an economic or cultural aspect. We know that the Asian countries, especially China and Hong Kong, are the key exporters and certainly traders of shark fins, but we don’t have statistics associated with that.
Senator Bovey: If I may suggest, if we are to get a handle on the context of what the committee is dealing with, these are pretty important pieces of information in terms of where there is legislation, where there have been disputes, and what the impact is on the socio-economic and cultural aspect of these countries.
I say that partly because of our own immigration patterns and partly because of our own fishery livelihoods. In the global context, as fish swim, it is a pretty important piece of the operation.
Mr. van Havre: That notion of identifying livelihood and cultural aspects is one that is gaining importance in every biodiversity convention.
The CITES is considering and has now set up a working group that will look at how we will consult with indigenous people and local communities — that is the UN terminology — and they will be reporting at the next meeting which will take place in the fall.
At the Convention on Biological Diversity that is meeting this week in Montreal, there is a similar recommendation to look at what is the appropriate format.
Definitely I can echo the concern you have about cultural aspect, livelihood, importance and impact of those decisions on those people is something that is taken care of, and Canada has been supporting that at every opportunity.
Senator Bovey: I would like to know which and how many countries have the legislation in effect. I think that is critical.
The Chair: Certainly from a socio-economic point of view, there are 100 million sharks at $22 per kilogram for fin meat, so someone is making money somewhere.
Ms. Bouffard: A lot of the information we have is anecdotal. You asked for statistics, and we don’t have them, but we certainly have anecdotal information from our participation in different international meetings.
It is telling, for instance, when we go to regional organizations that manage highly migratory stocks and you see the decisions that countries will take around the table. A lot of that is guided by their approach and domestic influence. Those that I have named — the U.S. and European Union — that do have management measures to sustainably manage shark fisheries often will support the fins-attached rules to be adopted in those organizations, and then there will be other countries that won’t. That is how we get our anecdotal information, but we don’t have statistics currently on that.
Mr. Jenkins: I want to follow up on Nadia’s response. While we don’t have statistics, we have done some rudimentary checking. I can’t say for sure we have contacted every country or we know every country’s legislation, but it is not common that there is an outright ban on importing. Because there are lots of legitimate fisheries, as we talked about earlier, including Canada, which harvests sharks as a bycatch in our case.
We do know there are other jurisdictions that have a ban on trade within country. There are the Bahamas, Guam, the Marshall Islands and the Cook Islands that don’t allow any trade. Whether that extrapolates to an import ban as well is possible, but, as Nadia pointed out, we don’t have clear statistics. We are of the belief that it would not be common, when we do the query, to have a lot of import bans.
Senator Ringuette: I would like some clarification, Ms. Bouffard. Earlier, you mentioned that there was a 60 per cent decline in fin imports in Canada and around the world. Did I understand correctly?
Ms. Bouffard: I think I was citing statistics in Canada. The shark fin import statistics from 2005 to 2015, which is the last year for which we have statistics, show a decline of 60 per cent. That being said, the analysis over a shorter period, from 2012 to 2015, shows a slight increase. However, over a longer period of time, since 2005, there has been a 60 per cent decrease in fin imports.
Senator Ringuette: I am having a hard time understanding, because the sponsor of the bill reported a 36 per cent increase of fin imports from 2012 to 2015. I have a table showing the monetary value here in front of me that indicates no decline from 2012 to 2016.
Ms. Bouffard: Over a shorter period of time, you are right. Your witness was right; there was a slight increase of 36 per cent. But if we look at the statistics over a longer period of time, since 2005, there has been a decline of 60 per cent. All this means that there were more fins coming into Canada in 2005 than there are today, and even in 2012.
Senator Ringuette: Can you provide us with that table, please?
Ms. Bouffard: We would be happy to do so. It comes from the FAO.
Senator Munson: Thank you for being here. I don’t know if anyone asked this question, but what do you think of the bill?
Senator Plett: Yes, we did.
Senator Munson: You did? Sorry. Did everyone answer what they thought of the bill?
Senator Plett: No, no one did.
Senator Munson: Let me ask it again because I think it is important.
We have had all these presentations. The senator who introduced this bill is very passionate about it, just like Senator Moore was passionate about his bill. We have gone through a long study dealing with Senator Moore’s bill, and now we are in the midst of this one. You have the expertise. Do you like this bill or not? That is a pretty simple question.
Ms. Bouffard: I should preface my comment by saying let there be no doubt that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has taken measures to address shark finning at sea since 1984, as my colleagues stated. We see it as an issue internationally. We have taken measures in Canadian waters, and statistics and our regulations show it.
Having said that, we are currently assessing the bill. We don’t have a position or a view on it. We are consulting with lawyers from the Department of Justice and from Foreign Affairs. It is a complex issue, particularly in terms of international trade. We are considering all of the impacts and potential implications of the bill.
Senator Munson: But, domestically, do you believe there are enough regulations in place to deal with what Senator MacDonald is talking about, or not?
Ms. Bouffard: We’ve addressed that question. The short answer is that, yes, we have some very clear measures. Perhaps I will let Randy go into the details of the domestic measures associated to shark finning at sea.
Mr. Jenkins: Earlier we mentioned that there are two fisheries in Canada where there is bycatch or incidental catch of sharks while pursuing another fishery.
In the case of the groundfish fixed gear fishery, they have always been required to land the entire animal. In the case of the pelagic longline fishery, they were required to land the entire animal, but we were allowing them to separate the fins from the animal at sea for the purposes of storage and bringing it in.
What we have changed now, or what we will change for the 2018 season, is that they won’t be allowed to remove the fins at sea until they arrive at port.
Even under the old regime, we did not allow the practice of finning in the sense of throwing the carcass overboard and retaining the fins, but we did allow the pelagic longline fleet to remove the fins and store them separately from the carcass, but when they arrived at port, we verified that the number of carcasses matched the number of fins -- or it could be double the fins, but it all added up. We also had a weight restriction on them, so 5 per cent of the total landed shark could not be more than 5 per cent for fins. We had a double count: a numerical count, plus the weight count. So that would change.
In a legal fishery — which is what we regulate, a legal commercial fishery — it would be challenging for anyone to violate the regulation, because we have independent dockside monitoring and all the vessels are checked when they come to shore. We don’t have a lot of shark landings to begin with; they are relatively minor. From that perspective, we currently have a regulatory framework within Canada for dealing with our domestic fleets. When I say “domestic fleets,” it doesn’t matter where they fish in the world; they are regulated by Canada. I don’t know whether that addresses your question, sir.
Senator Munson: That helps. Thank you very much.
Senator Gold: I want to make sure I understand one thing. I promise I won’t ask you for your opinion on the bill, but I do hope you can help us answer some questions of a more scientific nature, based upon your expertise.
We had testimony to the following effect: When a ship arrives in Canada laden with shark fins — or certainly when they are in stores all bleached out — notwithstanding progress with DNA testing, as a practical matter on the dock, it is pretty much impossible to determine from which species these fins came and, therefore, whether or not they were on Appendix I, Appendix II, or what have you. Is that correct, as a practical matter of enforcement?
Mr. Jordan: Thank you, Mr. Senator.
When a ship or cargo arrives in Canada, a sample of the DNA can be taken; however, keep in mind that it takes several days or weeks to get the results, and there may even be delays in the tests. This may delay the trade. So, in the case of interventions or inspections, we make sure to target the cargo in advance to see if it comes from a population in a country at risk to reduce the likelihood of trade being delayed because of our interventions. However, it takes time, and we receive many requests at our laboratories at Environment and Climate Change Canada. Our capacity is limited.
Senator Gold: It was not a criticism of your practice, on the contrary. On the ground, in this context, it is not really possible to avoid the import of shark fins, and to ensure that shark fins aboard a vessel do not come from endangered species.
Mr. Jordan: I’m an anglo-Quebecer like yourself, gauging from your accent, sir.
From an enforcement point of view, obviously there is the question of what are the declared goods and what are the real goods. I have worked 25 years in either wildlife enforcement or customs enforcement and it is always a question of what is declared there. If you are trying to slip something in, you will declare it as something different.
We have a lot more tools right now — for example, DNA testing — to be able to identify goods that are in trade. Our challenge is that while technology is advancing very much in terms of cost and time, we are still not at a point — and this is speaking for wildlife trade writ large, not just in Canada — where we can accurately and completely identify goods in trade in a short matter of time such that we are not causing an inconvenience for legitimate traders. For that reason, we are putting much of our effort toward trying to target and better understand what is in commerce beforehand so that we can target those who we think will be the people at risk as opposed to the legitimate traders in any species.
Senator Gold: Thank you for that. We had testimony from the sponsor of the bill, but also from the professors who appeared before us, that the degradation of shark populations was affected by the practice of shark finning. This was the assumption. I want to ask whether you believe that is true.
If it is true that shark finning contributes to the degradation of the population, would an international ban — which doesn’t exist now — on the importation of shark fins have a positive impact on the conservation of these important species?
Mr. van Havre: If you allow me, I will give you a general answer from a CITES perspective, and my colleagues from Fisheries will come in with specifics.
It is clear that, for an issue like shark conservation, action at the international level is what will be successful and have a real impact on the situation. There is no doubt. We have seen that with many other species. We have the tools in place at the international level and are able to deal with those issues.
If you look at other species where we had a positive impact, there are a number of mammals. The kunia, from the Andes, is one that was affected by unsustainable trade. There have been strong efforts at the international level by all countries affected, and now the species is coming back up.
Definitely your inference is correct. If Canada were a major importer and consumer, obviously domestic measures would have an impact. However, as I understand from colleagues, we are a relatively minor destination country and consumer of those specimens. The solution rests at the international level.
Ms. Bouffard: I agree with my colleague. You asked the question about the direct link between the state of the stock. I am not a scientist; none of us are. However, there are reports that speak to that, including international reports.
The 2015 Food and Agriculture Organization report titled State of the global market for shark products — and I recommend that the committee have a look at that report, if it hasn’t already — states the link between shark finning and the current state of shark resources globally. It is not saying that all shark species are subject to shark finning, nor are all shark species in a bad state. There are some legitimate commercial fisheries for sharks around the globe. That, I think, is probably the key reason why it is difficult to get consensus globally on trade sanctions associated to all shark fins traded globally, because it will inevitably impact all shark products globally and impact those legitimate fisheries that are taking place.
Senator Gold: Would you agree that, if Canada wanted to encourage the development of an international regime to ban the importation of shark fins, our case would be enhanced were we to have taken this step domestically?
Mr. van Havre: Canada is in a very favourable position when it comes to CITES because, on the one hand, we have applied very strong scientific rationale in proposals we have brought to CITES, both for up-listing and down-listing. We also have, on the other hand, a well-regulated and well-regarded wildlife management and wildlife exploitation regime. We stand in that middle ground where we are respected by both sides.
I think what will bring successful proposals at the international level is sound rationale that makes a distinction between those populations and species that are facing threats and others that are not. Those are the elements that we typically bring into our proposals.
Ms. Bouffard: To complement what Basile has said, a lot of our efforts, as a result of that, have been to pursue changes at the international level with respect to the management of sharks. Randy, in his opening statement, and Brian also, referenced some of the measures we have advanced in the NAFO regulatory area, in ICCAT, in relation to fins attached. That is a key component of the equation internationally.
Senator Plett: Senator Munson phrased his question a bit differently than Senator Gold and I did, and I just wanted to at least make a comment about that. I occasionally also deal with lawyers. My lawyer doesn’t ask me whether I like something. He tells me whether it’s legal or not. Senator Munson asked you, “Do you like the bill,” not, “Is it constitutional; will it stand the smell test?” I won’t pursue it, but I did want to at least make that observation, that the question was: Do you like it? For you to go and ask the department lawyer whether you like it, I don’t know whether that is the right way to go.
However, I want to follow up more on what Senator Bovey asked. I don’t know who all we are bringing in front of us, and we are not getting some of the answers that we would like. I am willing to accept that, but Senator Bovey asked a question that I think should not be that difficult for somebody to get the information on.
So, chair, for the record, I’m going to list half a dozen questions here. Probably, we won’t get an answer here tonight, but I want our witnesses to either follow up and give us answers in writing or let us know who we can call in as witnesses to get these answers. If this is as big of a problem as Senator MacDonald has told us it is, then I think some of these questions need to be answered.
The first one, of course, is what Senator Bovey already asked: How many countries have banned shark finning? Which ones?
Where is the practice of shark finning most prevalent?
How many countries allow shark finning? Well, I guess that’s probably the same as banned.
Does Canada work with other countries, such as Australia or the U.S., to develop — maybe following up on what Senator Gold said — an international regime?
What is the likelihood that another country would challenge a Canadian ban on shark finning?
My last question is this: What portion of fins imported to Canada are from countries that have banned shark finning, and what portion of fins imported to Canada are from countries that have not banned shark finning?
I think we need to have those questions answered in order for us to determine how big of a problem we even have here.
Those are on the record, Chair, and if our witnesses could endeavour to either get us the right people or send us answers for those.
The Chair: I fully understand that you might not be able to answer all of Senator Plett’s questions off the top of your head this evening, but does anybody want to make a comment? If possible, I echo the questions and the words of Senator Plett. This is new to us also, and we are trying to find our way. We certainly don’t want to go too farther out into the deep — pardon the pun — until we have some idea of what we are dealing with. If you could endeavour to get some answers for us, that would certainly help us as a committee.
Maybe we could add to that, getting back to some of the early questions that were asked in relation to your assessment of the bill, even though I understand that, chances are, it will be going to the Minister or to the government. If there were some information that you could give us that would help to guide us in our deliberations in relation to dealing with the bill from both your departments, it would really be appreciated by all committee members. If you could maybe elaborate on that.
Ms. Bouffard: Maybe I can start in a general sense, to reassure the committee that we do not want to not cooperate with the committee and to reassure you that you have the right people in front of you. The issue is that we don’t have the answers to many of these questions because they are in the hands of other countries from whom we have not sought that information.
So, whether countries have legislation to regulate shark finning at sea, whether countries have in place import bans, to our general knowledge, anecdotally, we have some information, but we certainly don’t have it for the world and we don’t have statistics for that. Whether we could seek it, I’m not sure we can respond to the committee in a timely way if we have to seek that information from other countries. We’ll have to check that.
Senator Plett: But you can try.
Ms. Bouffard: But we can try.
The Chair: This will be our last meeting until the end of January.
Mr. Jenkins: Unfortunately, Senator Plett has left, but, on question No. 3, which was about how many countries allow shark finning, most countries’ regulatory framework is probably similar to Canada, where, often, something is allowed unless it’s otherwise prohibited. It may be somewhat easier — and, again, I’m not sure we can do an entire list of every country — to find out whether something is prohibited. Chances are, there is not necessarily a regulatory requirement that expressly allows something. That is kind of how Canada’s legislative framework works, as well, for fisheries law. If it is not prohibited, it is like parking. If there is no street sign that says that you are not allowed to park, the assumption is you are allowed to park.
The other point I’d like to raise is that, as my colleague pointed out, it would be practically impossible for us to know for every country what their laws are, but we mentioned earlier the ICCAT convention, for example. These would be a bunch of countries that would be heavily involved in tuna, swordfish and other types of pelagic harvests. For those countries — I just spoke to my colleague quickly — it’s likely that we probably could do a fairly quick environmental scan. I don’t know whether we can get the actual legislation, but we’d be able to say, “Yea, nay, they have something, or they don’t.” I don’t know if that would help the committee, but, for some of the smaller countries or countries that we don’t really believe are engaged in any big way in sharks, it would probably be pretty impossible to manage.
The other point, if I may just throw it out quickly — and I may have misunderstood — I think Senator Gold had referenced earlier the importation of sharks versus the fins. Even in Canada, the Fisheries Department regulates the animal until it essentially gets to the dock. Once the animal is at the dock, they will harvest the different components of the animal and it will be shipped to different markets. If the animal is harvested legally, then they can separate the liver, the fins, the tail, the best cuts of meat and ship it to wherever the market is.
Just looking at it from a Canadian perspective — and it may apply in reverse as well — if there was a legitimate market for fins or some other product from legally harvested animals and we had to impose a requirement that they ship the entire carcass with the fins attached to the final destination, that would likely be a bit practically difficult for a lot of our fishers.
So I just wanted to raise that point with you. Thank you.
Senator Bovey: Just a comment. I’m presuming you can get a lot of these answers from the UN.
Mr. van Havre: If I may, the way our international system works is you have conventions and then those convention countries take obligations, including reporting, et cetera. In that sense, for example, if you were to ask whether countries have a regulation to implement an obligation under CITES, that is very easy. I know exactly where I would go on the CITES website and find it.
In terms of the practice of finning, maybe colleagues will correct me, but there is no such instrument at this moment in time and therefore there is no obligation for countries to report on that.
Senator Bovey: It seems Canada can lead the way.
Ms. Bouffard: Having said that, we will check with the FAO, in particular. There was, in the 1990s, an FAO plan of action on sharks; not shark finning, but sharks and shark management. As a result, they do seek and obtain information from the different FAO countries and we’ll see whether or not we can get some information from them. But whether they have, specifically, information on legislation in each of those countries, I don’t know.
Senator Ringuette: A quick supplementary. I guess it’s —
The Chair: Hang on for one second. Mr. Lester?
Mr. Lester: I just wanted to clarify. When we talk about countries that have anti-finning in place, a lot of the major countries — the U.S., the EU, which we noted earlier. There are 51 countries at ICCAT. In the November meeting that I just came back from, 40-some countries supported it. I would assume if you’re supporting a measure to ban finning or fins attached, you probably already have that legislation in place.
That said, all ICCAT countries are under an obligation of the 5 per cent rule that we used to enforce. That is, upon landing, fins could not make up more than 5 per cent of your shark on board. For all 51 countries, that is their obligation. Now, to get back to the enforcement side of things and are they all following their obligations, you would sure hope they are because they are parties to the convention.
I will say, in terms of ICCAT, in the Atlantic there is actually no RFMO that manages sharks. Canada has put forward to ICCAT in the convention amendments — the convention was written in 1967 — that ICCAT would take responsibility for shark species in the Atlantic, so all species in the Atlantic that would be shark species harvested would actually finally have an RFMO that would take care of them.
Right now we are dealing with bycatches. In most cases they are bycatches, but some of our parties, including the EU, have significant, directed, sustainable fisheries.
In terms of determining who actually has bans, anyone who is in the 51 countries that are signatories have obligations to mandatory 5 per cent maximum fin-to-carcass ratio.
It’s not to say there aren’t rules out there. There are rules. I think that probably since the late 1990s that rule has been in place. The gold standard, as my colleague mentioned, is fins attached. It really gets away from fins of different species being brought in with different carcasses. That’s the way that Canada is pursuing it internationally and we will continue to do it that way.
We will also continue to pursue the ICCAT convention amendments, which will include sharks, so the Atlantic sharks will actually be managed by an RFMO.
Senator Ringuette: Just a quick comment. I believe that all the questions that have been asked and that you will be seeking answers to for the members of the committee are no different than the questions that the minister would ask in order to ascertain your assessment of this bill. I guess in that respect then we should anticipate the answer to all these questions very shortly. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator McInnis: Well, first of all, I’m of the belief when we introduce private members’ bills that if it affects the department, the department should have been consulted. Were you consulted, or did you read about it in the newspaper?
Ms. Bouffard: I actually don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think we were, but I don’t know the answer to that question.
Senator McInnis: It’s always a problem. For another private members’ bill we dealt with, there were three departments and none of them were consulted.
You’re trying to get landings with the fins attached. Isn’t that impractical? Sharks are huge animals. How are you going to load all the sharks on? It’s a worthy cause. You want the entire animal used. But, in fact, it’s much easier to take the fins and load them on, and that's where your money is. The carcass is dumped overboard. I mean, how practical is it?
When you tried to get this approved, in whatever mechanism you used at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic, at the same time that we are dealing with tunas, you were trying to get it through with sharks, that’s probably the reason it failed; because it’s impractical — I shouldn’t say impractical, but it’s a challenge to put these huge animals in vessels and then come ashore.
Mr. Lester: I’ll just reiterate. Even though we didn’t get fins attached passed at the most recent meeting, the 5 per cent rule was already in place and an obligation for all parties. The retention of the full shark has always been there. The reality of some of the countries that don’t want to agree to this is that they are out for months at a time and, for purposes of storage, they remove the fins and put the carcasses in one area, fins in another. As you said, it’s a valuable part. You don’t want it getting damaged in the packaging.
They still have the obligation of landing it. Only 5 per cent of their actual shark catch could be considered to be fins. So the obligation is there. They still have to land the full carcass. Some of these vessels are quite large in terms of hundreds of feet long, so when they are out for months at a time, they can land the whole shark and that’s their obligation to do it.
Senator McInnis: We heard from two professors last week that precisely what I said is what happens; they are not doing it.
Mr. Lester: I would suggest that that probably is related to smaller vessels or vessels where they are not bound by some requirement, either through an obligation to an RFMO or through domestic legislation. Perhaps what they are talking about is vessels that are 15 or 20 feet long, where it’s quite difficult, as you mentioned, to bring in a number of sharks. But that would be a smaller, artisanal fishery. It wouldn’t have the same impact as some of the commercial fisheries in terms of the removal of sharks.
I’ll just point out, and I think it was noted earlier, that with this landing requirement and carcasses now being landed, we have actually created a market for shark, because with full utilization, commercial fishermen are now fishing sharks because there is a market. Fishermen will fish what’s there to make money. Once we made this full landing requirement, we created it. Now measures need to be in place to limit the harvest of the full shark — not just the fins, the full shark — because we created a marketplace with sharks.
It almost was somewhat counterproductive by forcing people to start making money on sharks. Now they are making money on sharks, so now you have to try to regulate it.
As I noted in the Atlantic, the difficulty is there is no real organization managing directed fisheries; it’s bycatch fisheries in NAFO and it’s bycatch fisheries in ICCAT. We will continue to pursue changes to the convention so we can actually regulate the harvest of sharks in the Atlantic.
Senator McInnis: It’s a worthy effort, if it becomes practical. Thank you.
Senator Plett: Very quick. Are all sharks an endangered species? All sharks that we would want to use for meat or for shark fin, are they all endangered?
Mr. Lester: I can answer in terms of some of the biggest shark fisheries in the EU are definitely not endangered. If you talk to fishermen in Atlantic Canada, blue sharks are one of the most fecund species. They have large litters. I think they spawn every year. That is probably the most plentiful shark in the Atlantic Ocean. They are significant harvests of a stock in the EU. They have actually moved away some of their swordfish fisheries to shark fisheries.
Senator Plett: So the ban on shark finning would not be because they are an endangered species; it would be for other reasons?
Mr. Lester: Not necessarily. It’s to ensure finning does not occur. That’s why it was put in place, namely to ensure they weren’t removing fins from one shark and keeping the carcass of another.
Senator Plett: Thank you.
Mr. van Havre: That is a very good question. It’s one that we contemplate when deciding to put a species up for listing at CITES; that is, is there a scientific rationale for listing this group of species or this very species and what will be the impact on the others? Those kinds of considerations are very important in the decisions we make.
Senator Plett: Thank you.
Senator Gold: You mentioned, Mr. Lester, the dozens and dozens of countries who are subject to the 5 per cent ban. If I understand correctly, some of the biggest exporters of shark fins are China, Hong Kong and perhaps other countries in Southeast Asia. Is China or Hong Kong subject to the 5 per cent rule? Are they signatories to that particular convention?
Mr. Lester: China is a member of ICCAT, so they would be bound by the obligations of ICCAT fisheries. They would be subject to what rules apply outside the Atlantic on that point. Hong Kong, if I understand correctly, is not a fishing nation. However, it has flow-through for a lot of exports, not just sharks or shark fins. It has a very significant international flow-through, but they don’t harvest.
Senator Gold: I am having trouble understanding the numbers that were quoted to us about the huge numbers in tonnage of shark fins that are traded worldwide. A large number are coming from China and elsewhere. As my colleague pointed out, it’s not economical for someone in that business to sail around with the whole animal because of the weight, the bulk and the premium that one pays for shark fins versus shark meat. I’m trying to get a handle on where these shark fins are coming from and whether they are actually being effectively regulated, or is it all black market shark fins?
Mr. Lester: I think Mr. van Havre has answered some of that in terms of knowing where they all come from. It’s not always a simple answer. Would I say it’s all black market? No; there are definitely sustainable fisheries. There are fisheries in the EU in the tens of thousands that are sustainable at the current level of harvest, where it’s a legitimate landing with fins attached — so not black market. Meat is going in one direction; shark fins are going somewhere else. That’s not to say that every shark fin on the marketplace was caught in a legal fishery and was subject to mandatory fins attached. We can’t answer that.
I don’t know the answer to where China or Hong Kong are sourcing all their fins before they re-export.
Senator Gold: Thank you.
Ms. Bouffard: We know that Hong Kong is not a fishing nation. It doesn’t have vessels to fish for sharks.
Senator Gold: But they export a lot of shark fins, it seems.
Senator Munson: They like soup.
Mr. van Havre: If I may add to that, that notion of transit countries involved in trade that may be detrimental to conservation is something that exists in several cases. CITES has a system that engages them.
I talked earlier about my experience at the meeting a couple of weeks ago. One of the countries that was put on the spot was Singapore. As you know, it is a major trading post. I can’t remember the number in terms of how important they are in the world for container trade but you know that. They have taken their responsibility very seriously. They were quite alarmed when we started to spot them in terms of countries that needed to take measures.
There are ways for us to ensure that the rest of the global community has confidence in the controls that are put in place for in-transit merchandise. I think the norm around the world is inspection of 1-in-15 containers. They do 1-in-6 in Singapore. Engaging and taking those measures are very important to ensuring that there is good compliance with the regime, and also sending a signal to illegal operators that they will not able to transit through probably Hong Kong in the case of shark fins.
The Chair: Thank you Senator Gold. On behalf of the committee, I thank our witnesses this evening. You certainly created some great conversation and provided a fair number of answers. We still want more, so we trust that you will try to assist us in whatever way you can. We reserve the right to have you back if we need someone in the new year to clarify some information that may be forthcoming to us.
On behalf of the committee, I thank you for your time this evening.
(The committee adjourned.)