21/02/2013 (Please note that some of the following information may have changed since 2013)
As scientists with a vested interest in facts, conservation and sustainable development, and based on the alarming studies of fellow researchers from around the world, we invite you to help make Quebec the first Canadian province to ban the commercialisation and possession of shark fins.
Unrestricted shark fishing endangers the well-being of all marine ecosystems. More than 90% of certain shark species have been decimated in the last quarter-century and shark finning makes up a large proportion of the shark fishery. Shark finning is the practice of slicing off a shark’s fins, and then dumping the mortally wounded creature back into the sea.
The province of Quebec is known by few people for its sharks but at least seven species inhabit the St. Lawrence Gulf and Estuary, including the most famous of all, the great white. We have been actively studying the Greenland shark in Quebec since 1999. It is the second largest carnivorous shark in the world and possibly the longest-living vertebrate on the planet and Quebec boasts the only known location where this shark is regularly observed at shallow depths. Now, a company based in Greenland (Greenland Company) is attempting to market Greenland shark fins as an alternative to depleting fin stocks, which could eventually affect populations of this key Arctic species throughout its northern range including Canada’s maritime provinces and Quebec.
“In Greenland the shark is a trash fish … Shark fins are used around the World in gourmet cooking. The demand for shark finns [sic] has even been increasing heavely [sic] during the last decades. This has proven to be a challenge as the global population of sharks is decreasing … our wish is to show the World the great possibilities that the Greenland Shark posesses [sic].” (Greenland Company, 2011)
The promotional video on the right (Greenland Shark Disco Dance) showcases some of the other uses (00:01:08) for the Greenland shark as marketed by Greenland Company including shark fin/cartilage pills for cancer treatment (proven ineffective), leather for shoes, dog food and keychains. Why should thousands of century-old sharks be killed when all of these products are easily manufactured with sustainable alternatives?
Shark finning is already illegal in Canada (since 1994) but there are no regulations to prevent anyone from importing fins into the country. Ecuador was the first country to outlaw the sale and distribution of shark fins on its territory in 2004. Malaysia (2007) and China (2012) have banned shark fin soup from official functions, Palau (2009), the Northern Mariana Islands (2011) and Guam (2011) have also passed legislation to ban shark fins. The states of Hawaii (2010), Illinois (2012), Oregon (2011), Washington (2011), California (2011), and New York (2012) have voted to ban the possession and trade of shark fins.
The Canadian cities of Abbotsford (2012), Brantford (2011), Calgary (2012), Coquitlam (2012), Duncan (2013), Langley (2012), London (2012), Maple Ridge (2012), Mississauga (2011), Nanaimo (2012), Newmarket (2012), North Vancouver (2012), Oakville (2011), Pickering (2011), Port Moody (2012), Toronto (2011) and White Rock (2012) have voted to ban the possession and trade of shark fins. However, the regulation does not apply to neighbouring municipalities. In order for any such legislation to be truly effective, it must be applied nationally. We therefore hope that a ban in Quebec will lead to similar action in other Canadian provinces and elsewhere in the world.
La tourtière, a meat pie served at Christmas and New Year’s, is still one of the best examples of the culinary culture of Quebec. And yet this traditional dish and the Holiday Season have both survived the disappearance of the pie’s main ingredient, the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). Known in Quebec as the ‘tourte’, the passenger pigeon may have been the most abundant animal species when Europeans first set foot on the continent.
Just as the ‘tourtière’ has deliciously adapted itself to the absence of its prime ingredient, there are substitutes for preparing shark fin soup.
The environmental effects caused by the extinction of the passenger pigeon are difficult to evaluate. However, many scientists agree that the disappearance of sharks, which have dominated the oceanic food chain for millions of years, would imperil the survival of marine ecosystems on which much of humanity depends.
The Québécois are known all over the world for their devout attachment to their culture. Yet, very few people here and elsewhere are aware that ecosystem imbalance caused by the wide scale elimination of sharks would eventually affect the cultures of all nations that even partly depend on the sea for sustenance.
This petition is therefore not an affront to other cultures. It is in fact an act of solidarity, which aims to protect an indispensable link of the natural heritage of all human beings.
This petition will effectively ban shark fin soup and all other shark fin derivatives in Quebec – including canned goods – unless traceability measures are put in place by the government to verify that shark fins were obtained from a fishery already sanctioned by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). In other words, restaurateurs would be required to prove that their fin stocks were legally obtained (individually marked by a DFO representative) when prompted to do so by a municipal or provincial inspector. However, since such measures currently do not exist, all shark fin products will become illegal.
This petition will not put an end to already existing shark fisheries in Quebec which fall under federal jurisdiction. However, unless traceability measures are implemented by the government, the sale of all shark fins – imported and from local fisheries – will be illegal. Such measures which currently do not exist would require that all shark fins obtained from DFO sanctioned fisheries be individually marked by a government representative when the entire shark is brought ashore with the fins still attached.
A ban on the importation of illegal shark fins is not enough. Because fins from sanctioned Canadian fisheries are still available, and because these fins are not clearly identified as such, nothing would prevent a dishonest individual from obtaining illegally imported fins on the black market and then easily passing them off as being ‘Canadian.’ As long as there are sanctioned shark fisheries in Canada, a simple ban on imported shark fins without traceability measures for local fins will be ineffective.
Since shark fisheries still exist in Canada itself, and in the event that a traceability and eco-certification system were eventually put in place, this petition may not lead to a total ban on shark fins. However, the implementation and promotion of such a system would likely have a dissuasive effect on the consumption of shark fins in Quebec, including those from sanctioned fisheries. Education, time and the eventual closure of unsustainable shark fisheries in the St. Lawrence will ultimately put a definitive end to shark fin commerce in Quebec.
A petition drafted by the president of GEERG, Mr. Jeffrey Gallant, and supported by the Member of the National Assembly for Drummond-Bois-Francs, Mr. Sébastien Schneeberger, was posted on the website of Quebec’s National Assembly on November 14, 2012. It is a non-partisan action with the goal of uniting under one voice those who share a profound concern for the well-being of the world ocean in which sharks play an indispensable role.
Everyone can sign the petition regardless of nationality or country of residence. Help us end shark finning by signing our petition to the National Assembly of Quebec and then please take action in your own part of the world. Merci !
Sharks are part of Quebec and the world’s natural heritage. Help us end the indifference that allows the senseless killing of over 75 million sharks every year. Sign the petition today and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
PETITION TO BAN THE COMMERCIALISATION AND POSSESSION OF SHARK FINS IN THE CANADIAN PROVINCE OF QUEBEC
Petition drafted by Mr. Jeffrey Gallant
Supported by the Member of the National Assembly for Drummond-Bois-Francs, Mr. Sébastien Schneeberger
Whereas the number of sharks killed for their fins is between 38 to 100 million per year throughout the world. (1)
Whereas the practice of shark finning results in considerable waste since only 3 to 5% of the shark’s overall mass is used and that the mutilated shark is tossed back into the sea to die. (2)
Whereas 115 shark species throughout the world are currently threatened or near-threatened. (3)
Whereas shark finning reduces shark populations thus affecting traditional and sustainable fisheries.
Whereas no traceability or eco-certification measures currently exist for legal and sanctioned shark fisheries.
Whereas sharks play an indispensable role to naturally maintain marine ecosystems.
The signatories of this petition ask the National Assembly of Quebec to ban the commercialisation and possession of shark fins in the province of Quebec.
(1) Clarke, S. C., McAllister, M. K., Milner-Gulland, E. J., Kirkwood, G. P., Michielsens, C. G. J., Agnew, D. J., Pikitch, E. K., Nakano, H. and Shivji, M. S. (2006), Global estimates of shark catches using trade records from commercial markets. Ecology Letters, 9: 1115–1126. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2006.00968.x
(2) IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). 2003. Information on Shark Finning: Conversion Factors for Shark Fin to Shark Body Weight.
(3) IUCN 2011. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <http://www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 10 November 2011.
April 18, 2013: Our petition to ban shark fins in Quebec has been rejected in a letter signed by the Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. François Gendron, under the pretext that international and interprovincial commerce falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Since the Harper Government recently voted against a private member’s bill calling for a Canadian ban on the import of shark fins, fins obtained through finning will remain legal and readily available throughout the country – including Quebec – for at least a few more years. And yet we had carefully worded the petition to allow the Government of Quebec to act without superseding its provincial competencies. Labeling fins to indicate their origin would have benefited the small and reputedly sustainable fisheries in Quebec while strategically blocking imported fins that are usually of dubious or unknown origin.
Since it was already known that the Harper Government had rejected a Canadian ban, the Government of Quebec could have shown ingenuity and courage by acting – even with limited effect – in order to demonstrate its will to protect the vital link of the St. Lawrence ecosystem that is sharks. For a government that incessantly trumpets its desire to be independent, this missed opportunity is summed up in a generic and seemingly disabused letter that has signed the death warrant of thousands of sharks. Our absolute disappointment is compounded by the fact that there was no discussion or consultation with any of the concerned parties. In fact, the decision was likely made with the same indifference that has led to the killing of over 100 million sharks worldwide every year.
In the meantime, the State of New York voted Monday to ban shark fins, thus adding its name to an ever-growing list of states and countries that have chosen to be accountable as we all face an environmental crisis that threatens every ocean as well as the billions of people who depend on them, including a good number of people from Quebec.
As for myself, I will henceforth stick to science and education to make the case for shark conservation. My brief adventure as an activist is over. Profound thanks to all of you who signed the petition.
Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group
Quebec Shark Observatory
April 18, 2013
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE PETITION