New Management Measures to Strengthen Shark Finning Prevention

Canada has implemented a mandatory fins-attached management measure for all pelagic shark landings across Canada. While currently in place for some fisheries, under the new measure all harvesters will be required to land pelagic sharks with the fins naturally attached.

Mandatory landing of whole sharks with their fins attached is considered to be the best way to prevent shark finning. This practice also encourages the full use of the shark rather than just the fins, which are usually the most valuable part of the shark.

What is shark finning?

Shark finning is the term used to describe the practice of fishing for sharks solely for their fins and discarding the rest of the carcasses at sea. The practice of shark finning has been banned in Canada since 1994 through licence conditions administered under the Fisheries General Regulations. However, sharks are still harvested as a result of bycatch.

How does the new measure differ from Canada’s existing measure to manage shark bycatch and prevent shark finning?

Canada currently has a fin-to-carcass weight ratio measure in place, with mandatory dockside monitoring to manage shark bycatch. Under this measure, harvesters are allowed to remove the fins from the sharks for storage purposes, but they are also required to land the shark carcass. However, the weight of the fins cannot exceed five percent of the overall weight of the carcasses on board the vessel.

Under the new measures, harvesters must land the entire shark with its fins at least partially attached to the carcass.

Why is Canada changing its management measure?

While Canada’s existing measure ensured Canadian harvesters were not shark finning, the new measure is in line with the international approach and widely recognized as a best practice to help reduce the risk of shark finning.

Which fisheries are most affected by shark bycatch?

Currently in Canada, pelagic sharks are harvested as bycatch in the pelagic longline fishery and the inshore groundfish longline fishery on the Atlantic coast. Pelagic shark species, including shortfin mako, porbeagle and blue sharks are harvested as bycatches in these fisheries.  

What are the bycatch levels of sharks in these fisheries?

Approximately 60 to70 tonnes of shortfin mako sharks and 20 to 30 tonnes of porbeagle sharks are harvested as bycatch every year. Blue sharks are also caught as bycatch but they are normally released at sea.

When will the new measures be implemented?

The new measures will be phased into all fisheries by March 2018, in consultation with stakeholders and based on the timing of individual fisheries.

Does Canada have a shark fishery?

No. Canada does not have a directed fishery for pelagic sharks. Sharks are only harvested as a result of bycatches in the pelagic longline fishery for swordfish and other tunas, and to a lesser amount in the inshore fixed gear groundfish fishery. However, there are small directed fisheries for spiny dogfish on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts, but since this is not a pelagic shark species and not covered under international conventions, the new measures would not apply to these fisheries.

What does the term pelagic mean?

Pelagic is a term that refers to a part of the ocean that is neither near the shore nor the bottom. Water in this area is said to be in the pelagic zone.