Once in a while, it’s possible to learn a whole new way to understand something.
This happened for me ten years ago when I saw the documentary film Sharkwater. All my life, I’d considered sharks to be terrifying creatures of the deep. I’d never thought of them as anything other than predators.
Rob Stewart’s documentary not only helped me to understand sharks better, it helped me to understand our oceans better – and Stewart’s clarion call for an end to shark finning resonated very deeply for me.
In February 2012, Rob Stewart gave a powerful presentation to Glenlyon-Norfolk School. He inspired and motivated the students in the room. They became determined to do what they could to make people aware of the plight of the world’s shark population. Together with their teacher, Mrs. Margaret McCullough, these students set up a not for profit known as Fin Free Victoria.
In 2014, these students gave a presentation to Andrew Weaver, who was then the only BC Green MLA in the Legislature. Andrew, in turn inspired by the students, raised the issue in the Legislature, pushing for a ban on the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in BC.
Today I am proud to have presented my Private Member’s Bill, the Fish and Seafood Amendment Act, which would restrict the possession and distribution of shark fins in BC.
Sharks play a critical role in the health of our ocean ecosystems and marine biodiversity, and the practice of shark finning is a serious threat to the survival of shark species. The practice of finning – slicing off the shark fin and leaving the live shark to die in the ocean. The shark is unable to swim, and dies slowly from bleeding to death.
Shark specialists estimate that over 100 million sharks are killed each year from this practice, and that within a decade the ocean will have lost several species of sharks.
Sharks have been present in our oceans for over 400 million years. They have survived the Earth’s five great extinction events including times when up to 80% of all marine species were wiped out. But they are struggling now in the anthropocene, the 6th great extinction event. Sharks are apex predators whose survival affects all other marine species and entire ocean ecosystems. They grow slowly, mature late, and have relatively low rates of reproduction. Their populations have little resilience to harvest and as a result, over-fishing of sharks has now become a worldwide problem.
The Fish and Seafood Amendment Act, 2017 gives us an opportunity to bring in legislation that will restrict the possession and distribution of shark fins in BC.
Today is the ten year anniversary of the US release of the documentary Sharkwater, a film that brought this serious issue to the world’s attention.
I am honoured to be contributing to the efforts of Rob Stewart, who tragically lost his life while pursuing his passion to protect sharks.