British Columbia-based trading company fined $60,000 for illegal import of 434 kg of fins from a threatened shark species
May 19, 2021 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Environment and Climate Change Canada
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting Canadian and foreign species of wild animals and plants that may be at risk of overexploitation due to unsustainable or illegal trade.
Through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), we are working with more than 180 other nations to protect at-risk and threatened animal and plant species here and abroad.
On May 18, 2021, Kiu Yick Trading Co. Ltd. was sentenced to pay a $60,000 fine after pleading guilty in the Provincial Court of British Columbia to unlawfully importing a CITES-listed species without a permit, in contravention of subsection 6(2) of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and used to support projects that benefit our natural environment. In addition to the fine, the court also ordered that 13 boxes of silky shark fins, weighing approximately 434 kg, be forfeited to the Crown.
The charge stemmed from an investigation by Environment and Climate Change Canada, which found that, in February 2018, Kiu Yick Trading Co. Ltd. had, as part of a large importation of dried shark fins from Hong Kong, unlawfully imported several thousand Carcharhinus falciformis (silky shark) fins, a species protected by CITES.
The shipment was declared as blue shark (Prionace glauca) fins, which may be lawfully imported without a CITES permit. Silky sharks, however, have been listed as an Appendix II CITES species in the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations since October 2017. Therefore, a CITES export permit from Hong Kong was required for all silky shark fins contained in the shipment, but no permit was presented.
Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers inspected the shipment, detaining nearly half of the boxes of shark fin to conduct DNA testing to confirm the species. The results of the testing indicated that more than 65 percent of the shark fins sampled were CITES-protected silky shark. The other fins were identified as blue shark and shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), both of which were non-CITES species at the time. (The shortfin mako has since been CITES-listed.)
After this testing, the lawfully imported fins were returned to the importer while 13 boxes of silky shark fins were detained for investigation. Environment and Climate Change Canada estimates that these boxes could represent up to 3185 individual sharks. This amount is believed to be the largest forfeiture of shark fins in Canada to date.
- Sharks help maintain balance in marine ecosystems. When their populations decline, unpredictable consequences in the ocean environment may result, including the possible collapse of commercially important fisheries. According to CITES, over 50 percent of shark and ray species are threatened or near threatened with extinction. This reality is largely due to unsustainable fishing efforts coupled with high demand in the international fin trade. Shark fins are used in traditional medicine and in making shark-fin soup.
- For species that are the most endangered, an Appendix I listing—effectively a trade ban—is usually adopted. For species whose populations have significantly declined but for which some trade is still possible, an Appendix II listing is more likely provided that governments prove the catch was both legal and sustainable before export. Most CITES-listed shark and ray species are listed in CITES Appendix II.
- Importing and exporting species listed in Appendix II are allowed provided the appropriate permits are obtained, which show the trade and quantity allowed will not be detrimental to the species’ survival. Specimens to be imported into Canada must be accompanied by a CITES export permit (or re-export certificate) issued by the exporting country.
- CITES is an international agreement that Canada joined in 1975 to regulate or in some cases to prohibit trade in specific species of wild animals and plants as well as their respective parts and derivatives.
- The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act is the legislation that Environment and Climate Change Canada uses to implement CITES in Canada. The act aims to protect Canadian and foreign species of animals and plants at risk of exploitation from illegal trade.
- In 2019, the Fisheries Act was amended to prohibit the import of non-attached shark fins.
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