Canada has become the first G20 country in the world to ban the import and export of shark fins in a move advocates hailed as a major win for preserving ocean populations.
The ban passed in the Senate late Tuesday as part of Bill C-68, which overhauls the Fisheries Act. Canada has outlawed the practice of cutting fins off domestic sharks since 1994, but it did not have legislation to prohibit people from bringing fins into the country.
The shark-fin trade thrived under the old laws, with more than 148,000 kilograms of shark fins worth $3.2 million entering the country in 2018 alone, according to Statistics Canada.
“We recognize the clear threat that the shark fin trade poses to the sustainability of our oceans,” Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in Toronto on Thursday at an event to announce the ban. “The practice is simply not sustainable, and it is inhumane.”
Wilkinson made the announcement in front of a shark mural dedicated to Rob Stewart, the late Canadian filmmaker who raised awareness about the shark-fin trade through his Sharkwater documentaries. Stewart died in early 2017 while filming a Sharkwater sequel in Florida.
WATCH: The legacy of Sharkwater filmmaker Rob Stewart
Stewart’s parents were on hand Thursday for the announcement.
“His films have unquestionably inspired many to mobilize against shark finning around the world,” Wilkinson said.
Rebecca Aldworth, head of the Humane Society International/Canada, also hailed Stewart’s work at the announcement on Thursday.
Aldworth said the shark-fin ban is “going to set the example that the rest of the world will surely follow.”
WATCH: Rob Stewart’s family carries on his message
Shark fins are a delicacy in East Asia, particularly in China, which exported the vast majority of fins to Canada. The fins are often used to make shark-fin soup.
Canada could become an example for other G20 countries to ban the export and import of shark fins, said Josh Laughren, executive director of Oceana Canada, a private conservation group.
“With all laws, how they’re implemented matters, but there’s no question this has the potential to be transformative for how we manage Canada’s oceans,” Laughren told Reuters.
Oceana Canada says fins from up to 73 million sharks end up in the global trade every year.
—With files from Reuters