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Vancouver Chinese herbal medicine firm fined after massive protected shark fin seizure in Richmond

The East Vancouver company was fined $75,000 after being caught importing 20,196 fins, some of which belonged to a protected shark species
Just a few of the 20,196 fins from protected sharks that were seized by the CBSA in Richmond

A Vancouver Chinese herbal medicine company has been fined $75,000 after it was caught importing more than 20,000 fins harvested from a protected shark species via Richmond.

Hang Hing Herbal Medicine Ltd. – which has a store on E. Pender Street - was recently ordered to pay the $75,000 fine after earlier pleading guilty in Vancouver Provincial Court to unlawfully importing a protected shark species without a permit.

The company’s haul of 20,196 fins, weighing 550 kg inside 22 bags, was understood to have been seized somewhere in Richmond by CBSA officers.

The court heard how the shipment was labelled as “fish bone” when it was intercepted by the authorities back in September 2017.

Wildlife enforcement officers then inspected the shipment and concluded that the products were in fact shark fins.

DNA testing revealed that the fins belonged to two species of shark, one being an oceanic whitetip, a protected species at the time of seizure.

The other belonged to the silky shark which, although now on the protected list, only made it onto the prohibited list a month after the seizure.

The fins were forfeited to the Crown and the fine will be directed to the federal government’s Environmental Damages Fund to support projects that benefit the natural environment.

In recent years, the continued appearance of shark fin soup on some Asian restaurant menus, especially in Richmond, has sparked outrage among animal welfare groups.

The item is considered a luxurious delicacy and display of wealth in some cultures.

Former Richmond MP Alice Wong attracted widespread criticism in 2012 when she tucked into a bowl of shark fin soup at a press conference in a Richmond restaurant which only Chinese-language media was invited to.

At the time, she was protesting a move by the City of Richmond to ban the sale of shark fin soup, saying that it was a federal matter.

As a result of the Hang Hing Herbal Medicine’s 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.

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.

In 2019, Canada's Fisheries Act was amended to prohibit the importation of non-attached fins from any shark species.

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