British Columbia-based trading company fined $75,000 and ordered to forfeit 20,196 shark fins

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) 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), Canada works with more than 180 other nations to protect at-risk and threatened animal and plant species here and abroad.

On January 17, 2022, Hang Hing Herbal Medicine Ltd. was sentenced to pay a $75,000 fine after earlier pleading guilty in the Provincial Court of British Columbia in Vancouver to a charge of unlawfully importing a protected shark species without a permit. Importing a CITES-listed species without a permit obtained from the country of export is a contravention of subsection 6(2) of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA).

The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund to support projects that benefit our natural environment. In addition to the fine, the court ordered that the entire shipment of processed shark fins, 20,196 fins weighing approximately 550 kg, be forfeited to the Crown. Forfeiture removes the specimens from trade.

On September 25, 2017, Hang Hing Herbal Medicine Ltd. imported a shipment containing 22 bags of processed shark fins, declared as fish bone, into Richmond, BC. The Canada Border Services Agency noted that the shipment contained wildlife products and referred it to ECCC Enforcement. Wildlife enforcement officers inspected the shipment and concluded that the products, declared as fish bone, were in fact shark fins. DNA testing was used to determine that the shipment contained two species of shark, one being a CITES Appendix II-listed species, Carcharhinus longimanus (oceanic whitetip shark). An importer must obtain a permit from the country of export before importing an Appendix II species into Canada. No permit to import the 12, 984 Oceanic Whitetip Shark fins had been obtained.

The other shark species found in the shipment was determined to be Carcharhinus falciformis, or silky shark. This species was added to the CITES list in October 2017 and therefore its importation was not prohibited at the time of the shipment in September 2017.

About 400 species of sharks are found in the world. Many shark populations are threatened, largely due to unsustainable fishing practices and the high demand of the international fin trade. Sharks were first included in Appendix II of CITES in 2003 and today 12 species are listed. In 2019, Canada’s Fisheries Act was amended to prohibit the import of non-attached fins from any shark species. These efforts, among other things, help improve the sustainability of fisheries and discourage harmful fishing practices, including illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.

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