A Vancouver-based herbal medicine company has been fined $75,000 for importing fins from a protected species of shark without a permit.
Hang Hing Herbal Medicine pleaded guilty in Vancouver Provincial Court on Monday to the offense, which dates back to September 2017.
According to Environment Canada, the company imported a shipment containing 20,196 processed shark fins, weighing 550 kilograms. All 22 fin bags were declared as fish bones.
“Wildlife officers inspected the shipment and concluded that the products, declared as fish bones, were in fact shark fins,” the federal agency said in a press release.
“DNA testing was used to determine that the shipment contained two species of sharks.”
Oceanic sharks listed as endangered
The charges relate only to the importation of 12,984 fins of carcharhinus longimanus, or oceanic whitetip sharks, which were listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora at the time of the offense .
Investigators also identified fins of carcharhinus falciformis, known as the silky shark, which was not listed as banned under the same treaty until October 2017, a month after the shipment arrived.
According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the oceanic whitetip shark is found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The animals can measure up to four meters in length and rarely encounter humans.
The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration listed the species as threatened in 2018.
“The main threat to oceanic whitetip sharks is bycatch in commercial fisheries combined with demand for its fins,” the agency’s website says.
“They are frequently caught in pelagic longline, purse seine and gillnet fisheries around the world and their fins are highly valued in the international trade for shark products.”
The fins of the animal are used for shark fin soup.
The $75,000 fine will go to the federal government’s Environmental Damages Fund. The court also ordered that the entire shipment of processed fins be forfeited to the Crown.
The company name will be added to the Environmental Offender Registry.