Vancouver herbal medicine company fined $75K for illegally importing shark fins

A Vancouver-based herbal medicine company has been fined $75,000 for importing fins from a protected shark species without a license.

Hang Hing Herbal Medicine pleaded guilty to the crime, which dates back to September 2017, in Vancouver Provincial Court Monday.

According to Environment Canada, the company imported a shipment of 20,196 processed shark fins – weighing 550 kilograms. The 22 bags with fins were declared as bones.

“Wildlife officials inspected the shipment and concluded that the products labeled as fishbones were in fact shark fins,” the federal agency said in a press release.

“DNA testing determined that the shipment contained two species of shark.”

Oceanic whitetip sharks listed as threatened

The charges relate only to the importation of 12,984 fins of Carcharhinus longimanus, or oceanic whitetip sharks, which were listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora at the time of the offence.

Investigators also identified fins of Carcharhinus falciformis, known as the silky shark, which was only listed as banned under the same treaty in October 2017 – a month after the shipment arrived.

The oceanic whitetip shark is found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The animals can grow up to four meters long and rarely meet people. (US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, the oceanic whitetip shark is found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. The animals can grow up to four meters long and rarely meet people.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration listed the species as threatened in 2018.

“The greatest threat to oceanic whitetip sharks is bycatch in commercial fisheries coupled with demand for its fins,” the agency’s website said.

“They are commonly caught in pelagic longline, purse seine and gillnet fisheries around the world, and their fins are highly prized in the international shark product trade.”

The fins of the animal are used for shark fin soup.

The $75,000 fine goes to the federal government’s Environmental Damages Fund. The court also ordered all shipments of processed fins to the Crown forfeited.

The company’s name is included in the Register of Environmental Offenders.