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Shark fin imports are 'almost impossible' to trace, says NDP MP

Illegally harvested shark fins are being imported into Canada and it’s up to the federal government to stop the practice, an Opposition MP said yesterday.

“Canada can become a world leader by saying we’re not going to accept those often illegally harvested fins that are causing…a huge trend in the loss of sharks in the last short number of years,” said Fin Donnelly, the NDP’s deputy critic for Fisheries and Oceans.

Donnelly, MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody, has been drumming up support for his private member’s bill that calls for the banning of shark fin imports. The bill could be considered for second reading in early December.

But so far Alice Wong isn’t among his supporters, after the Richmond MP dined on a bowl of shark fin soup for some reporters last Thursday.

“It seems like she’s trying to deliver a specific message to a specific audience, as opposed to dealing with this issue at hand,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly said although Canada’s spiny dogfish shark fishery is a well-managed fishery, sharks elsewhere in the world are being fished without the same certification as required here.

“It’s almost impossible without DNA testing to trace where that shark fin is coming from,” said Donnelly, adding imports can be a mix of legal and illegally caught fins.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution last month calling on senior governments to take action on shark finning, a practice that Donnelly said threatens one-third of all shark species with extinction and kills up to 75 million sharks each year.

A government source confirmed shark fin importers aren’t required to provide detailed information about their products.

Richmond Coun. Chak Au believes the federal government should tighten import  rules.

“We have to target those people who practise shark finning. That is not defensible. We have to tighten up our regulations and enforcement to make sure that all shark fins that come into Canada are legally harvested,” he said.

Au said Cathay Pacific Airlines set a good example last month by enacting a policy refusing to transport shark fins without proof they’re legally harvested. Au said the move has significantly reduced the airline’s volume of shark fin shipments.

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