Help sharks, support Bill C-380!

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Help sharks, support Bill C-380!

(This guest post was written by Ava Hickson of the Vancouver Animal Defense League.  Thanks, Ava!)

What do you do when millions of sharks are under attack from money-hungry poachers, corrupt governments and an unregulated international trade? Stand up, fight back! And that is what Vancouver Animal Defense League is doing to save sharks!

It is estimated that 100 million sharks are poached for their fins annually. This has been going on for years. For the sharks, this means that 90% of their population is gone and only 10% remain.  The soup made from their fins was originally a sign of wealth and eaten at banquets and weddings; now anyone willing to pay for a bowl can help extinguish an entire group of species. The dried fins are sold in apothecaries as healing medicine, but science has proved they do not cure any diseases or cancer. It was originally believed that sharks could not get cancer, so ingesting their fins could cure you of it.  This is a fallacy as sharks have been discovered to suffer from cancers as well.

shark fin photo

Shark fins laid out to dry. (Photo: Gary Stokes, Sea Shepherd)

Thanks to citizens of Port Moody and Coquitlam who took it upon themselves to speak to city council members, these two municipalities had already banned the sale, trade and possession of shark fins!  VADL continued the push for municipal bans by appearing as a delegation to the cities of Burnaby, Richmond, Nanaimo, Langley, the Township of Langley, and Duncan in the summer of 2012. We are still in deliberation with the City of Vancouver and the City of Richmond about a regional ban. But the sharks do not have time to wait for negotiations that can take months, so we’ve continued to appear as a delegation to municipalities all over British Columbia.  Thanks to the efforts of hardworking activists, 11 municipalities have so far banned shark fins: Port Moody, Coquitlam, North Vancouver, Nanaimo, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Township of Langley, City of Langley, White Rock, Duncan and New Westminster with Delta and Pitt Meadows in the process.

VADL also gathered the emails of every single mayor and city council member in British Columbia to send them information about what is happening with the sharks and plead to them to vote on whether to take action at their yearly UBCM meeting. Because of this hard work, all those who attended the meeting were aware of Canada’s contribution to the destruction of the oceans and had the knowledge they could now use to help right the wrongs being done. Only one person out of over 300 people voted against taking action through a ban.

roll of paper with signatures

70 feet of signatures supporting sharks

In addition to city hall meetings, we have also hosted weekly protests for over 8 months outside of Fortune Garden Restaurant in Vancouver, which has an entire menu devoted to shark fin soups that they claim are tiger sharks. The sustained protest campaign has proven very successful, educating the public, shaming restaurateurs profiting off of the destruction of the oceans, and garnering support of would-be patrons and passersby. Tabling has also been successful at educating the public and raising universal support. We filled an entire 70-foot banner with signatures and words of support from people all over the world who passed us by and presented this banner to the City of Richmond to show them the overwhelming support of the public for a ban. Richmond has the highest concentration of shark fins for sale in British Columbia.

The most compelling part of the anti-shark finning campaign has been the DNA results we obtained from the University of Guelph. We partnered with Fin Free Victoria and CTV to prove once and for all that endangered species of sharks are being sold here in British Columbia. (See the report here.) We know from the way the shark-finning trade operates that the poachers will catch any shark they can, as the fins will sell for up to several hundred dollars a pound. And once the fins are taken they are all grouped together and sold just as “fins”. No one poaching the sharks cares to identify or separate the species they have killed. Tests on local fins for sale had been done in the USA and we intended on uncovering the truth behind fins being sold in Canada.

We legally purchased 90 fin samples and CTV purchased 10. The scientist at the University of Guelph was able to procure DNA from 59 of the samples, as the rest were too corrupted by chemicals to properly test. We were shocked by the results: 76% of the tested samples were from threatened, vulnerable and endangered species of sharks. This proved just how detrimental the shark fin trade is to our oceans, and these sharks are being murdered, traded and sold all around the world, every single day.

shark fin DNA results

The next step in the campaign is to raise enough funds to have shark fin samples tested for mercury levels. If results from these samples came back at 1 part per million mercury, they would be illegal to sell in Canada. We already know from scientific data that mercury levels in the oceans have risen significantly in recent decades. We want the public to know if there are unsafe mercury levels in fins for sale in order to further convince those who are still unsure that this trade is harmful not only to the sharks but to humans as well. Even if tests come back showing that mercury levels in the fins are of legal levels, we still know that if shark populations decrease to the point of extinction it will prove detrimental to humans as well. As apex-predators, sharks keep all other species in the oceans in check. Without them, the ecosystem will collapse and the oceans will no longer be able to produce 70% of our oxygen that they do now. All land animals need oxygen to survive; therefore, we need sharks alive to survive.

fin donnelly

Contact your MP and let them know that you support MP Fin Donnelly's Bill C-380!

The most important thing you can do right now:

  • Please write a letter to your Member of Parliament about the issue and why you support MP Fin Donnelly’s bill.  Find your MP here or find a complete list of MPs here.  We have compiled a list of emails from every single MP in Canada so you can ask them all to support Bill C-380.  When contacting Canadian MPs, it is important to send polite emails and include your address or your constituency. Your subject line should say Bill C-380. Please remember to put all the email addresses in the BCC address line so they do not get a massive list of emails in your letter.

Your support will help push this campaign to the forefront of Canadian media and help ban shark fins in Canada once and for all. We want Canada to be a world leader in the action against the atrocities to the oceans.

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