Policy on Fisheries Act Permits for Shark Fin Import and Export for Scientific Research
On this page
- General policy guidelines and principles
- Policy for obtaining a Ministerial authorization to import shark fins into Canada or export shark fins from Canada
- Apply for a permit
In June 2019, provisions were introduced in the Fisheries Act to address the unsustainable practice of shark finning.
As a result of these new provisions, the following activities are prohibited:
- Subsection 32(1) of the Fisheries Act prohibits the practice of shark finning. Shark finning is defined in s. 32(2) of the Act as the practice of removing the fins from a shark and discarding the remainder of the shark while at sea; and
- Subsection 32.1(1) of the Fisheries Act prohibits the import into Canada or export from Canada, or attempt to so import or export, any shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass, except in accordance with a permit to conduct these activities issued by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard under subsection 32.1(2).
Shark finning has been prohibited in effect in Canada since 1994 through conditions of a fish harvester’s licence issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). These licence conditions were implemented to ensure better conservation of sharks in Canadian fisheries’ waters. Shark finning has devastating impacts on global shark populations, and as apex predators, sharks play a critical role in keeping fish populations and ocean ecosystems healthy. The additional import and export prohibitions that were established in s. 32.1 of the Fisheries Act in June 2019, reaffirm the importance of shark conservation, both in Canadian and international waters.
This document contains the policies established by DFO to process applications for permits from the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, authorizing the importation or exportation into or from Canada of shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass.
Pursuant to s. 32.1(2) of the Fisheries Act, the Minister may authorize the import or export of shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass and may impose any conditions that he or she considers appropriate, if the importation or exportation is for the purpose of: (a) scientific research relating to shark conservation; and (b) if, in the Minister’s opinion, the scientific research is likely to benefit the survival of any shark species or is required to enhance the chances of survival of any shark species in the wild.
- The provisions of s. 32.1 of the Fisheries Act do not impact the buying and selling of shark fins within Canada. In March 2018, the Government implemented measures by licence condition that required Canadian fish harvesters to land all sharks with their fins naturally attached. Once landed, Canadian fish harvesters may choose to remove the fins from the shark carcass and sell the fins within Canada without any permit;
- A permit under s. 32.1(2) of the Fisheries Act would be required should the Canadian fish harvester choose to export the shark fins not attached to the shark carcass to a foreign country. In this case, an export permit would be considered only when the fins or parts of shark fins are to be used for scientific research; and
- In addition to applying for a permit when required under s. 32.1 of the Fisheries Act, it is the applicant’s responsibility to obtain any other licence, permit, authorization or other document that may be required under the Fisheries Act or any other Canadian law or foreign lawFootnote 1 (when relevant) for conducting activities related to having or obtaining possession of shark fins and/or exporting or importing shark fins.
General policy guidelines and principles
The text below establishes detailed policy principles to guide the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard in the exercise of his or her discretion in issuing permits under s. 32.1(2) of the Fisheries Act.
In all cases, the Minister retains the discretion to make exceptions to these principles. The Minister may also impose any conditions that he or she considers appropriate in a permit issued under s. 32.1(2) of the Fisheries Act, and retains the power to amend, suspend or cancel a permit that has been issued. A Fisheries Act permit, signed and issued by the Minister is required to be presented to the Canada Border Services Agency upon any attempted import to Canada or export from Canada of shark fins or parts of shark fins not attached to a shark carcass.
In general, DFO expects that importing or exporting shark fins into or from Canada will not be frequent. These import or export permits can be authorized only for the purpose of scientific research related to shark conservation and the survival of shark species. Because of these restrictions, the policy below has been developed with the objective of ensuring that the imported or exported shark fins will only be used to conduct valid scientific research, and will not be diverted for other purposes.
Policy for obtaining a Ministerial authorization to import shark fins into Canada or export shark fins from Canada
Requirements for obtaining an import or an export permit for the purpose of scientific research on shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass
Requirements for both import and export:
- The applicant must provide details regarding the objectives and protocols related to their research for each planned scientific study that is relevant to the permit request. Information on shark fins and/or parts of shark fins (i.e., product description, quantity, weight, etc.) is required with the application, including providing a rationale for the number of shark fins requested for import and/or export;
- The applicant must submit relevant scientific publications that demonstrate that the researchers involved in the proposed research activities have published work that is relevant to shark conservation;
- The applicant must submit proof of association with a research institution or recognized international organization that has played an active role in shark conservation during recent years and has developed widely used tools and/or approaches to support shark conservation initiatives;
- The applicant must describe how the proposed research activities are likely to benefit the survival of shark species or are required to enhance the chances of survival of shark species in the wild;
- The applicant must explain why the proposed research activities cannot be conducted in the country where the shark fins or parts of shark fins are currently located, and why importing or exporting the shark fins is essential to support the proposed research activities.
- The justification must include information on the other options that have been considered (i.e., working with a research institution in the country where the shark fins are currently located; using pictures of the shark fins if the objective of the research is to identify species) and why they should not be preferred;
- The applicant must provide qualifications for any collaborators or research assistants involved (if applicable) and indicate whether or not they will be working independently from the applicant with the shark fins or parts of shark fins;
- The applicant must submit a document explaining how the shark fins or parts of shark fins will be securely kept and/or disposed of to ensure that they will not be used for purposes other than the described scientific research; and
- If the applicant previously received a Fisheries Act authorization to import or export shark fins or parts of shark fins, the applicant must provide details that demonstrate proof of incremental progress to advance research on shark conservation or to benefit the survival of shark species in the wild (i.e., proof of publication, research results, statistics).
Apply for a permit
Contact us to apply for a permit to import or export shark fins.
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