Environment and Climate Change Canada has fined a BC company for unlawfully importing a protected shark species without a permit.
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 the charge of importing a CITES-listed species without a permit obtained from the country of export.
The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund to support projects that benefit the 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.
The company’s name will also be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.
CITES is an international agreement that Canada signed in 1975. As a party to the agreement, Canada adopted domestic legislation to regulate or, in some cases, to prohibit trade of specific species of wild animals and plants as well as their respective parts and derivatives.
Species are CITES Appendix II listed when there is a risk that they may be threatened with extinction unless trade is regulated. Importing and exporting species listed on Appendix II is allowed, provided the appropriate permits are obtained.