Saving the oceans is possible, one victory at a time | Oceana Canada

Oceana works around the world to make our oceans more biodiverse and abundant by campaigning for policy changes in the countries that govern much of the world’s marine life. Since its foundation in 2001, Oceana has won more than 200 victories and helped protect more than 11.6 million square kilometres of ocean.

Here in Canada, we celebrated two more ocean victories just last week: Canada modernized its Fisheries Act, by adding a legal requirement to rebuild depleted fish stocks, and ended its role in the shark fin trade. Here’s how, with your support, we helped secure these victories for the future health of the ocean.

shark fin trade ban Canada

This is the story of how Canada went from being the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia to the first G20 country to ban the import and export of shark fins.

Support a Bill: Our campaign kicked off when Oceana Canada was invited to participate in a press conference in April 2017 with Senator MacDonald and Member of Parliament Fin Donnelly. At the press conference Bill S-238 was announced, an Act to ban the import of shark fins. Bill S-238 was the sixth private member’s Bill attempting to ban the shark fin trade in Canada. All five others were defeated. Everyone involved was determined to see this one survive and finally protect sharks.

Get to the Senate: In January 2018, Oceana Canada appeared as a witness before the Senate Fisheries Committee in support of Bill S-238. We explained the importance of protecting sharks, why the fin trade was devastating populations, the need to expand the Bill to include exports of shark fins, not just the imports, and how the government, through the passage of the Bill, could make a real difference.

Rally the public: A petition was launched in October 2018 that called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, to pass Bill S-238. The petition received an astonishing 312,000 signatures, showing the mass public support for protecting sharks.

Support from MPs: We stepped up our call for public support in March of 2019 by asking Canadians to contact their Members of Parliament and secure their support for Bill S-238. More than 10,000 people sent emails and made phone calls, ensuring that hundreds of government officials heard loud and clear that they needed to protect sharks.

Move the bill forward: In May 2019, there was mounting concern that the legislation was running out of time to pass into law before the next federal election, as Parliament was due to close down for the summer in June. In response, Oceana Canada supporters sent thousands of e-mails to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans then added the provisions from Bill S-238 to Bill C-68, an Act to amend the Fisheries Act, which was farther along in the parliamentary process and more certain to pass.

Celebrate a victory for sharks: The day finally came for the hundreds of thousands of people who rallied together to protect sharks. Bill C-68 was passed into law in June 2019, banning the import and export of shark fins in Canada. Oceana Canada’s Campaign Director, Kim Elmslie, spoke alongside Minister Wilkinson, Senator MacDonald, the family of the late shark activist Rob Stewart and Humane Society International to announce this historic victory!

rebuilding fish populations

Since Oceana Canada was established in 2015, we’ve been campaigning to modernize Canada’s 150-year-old Fisheries Act by making sustainably managing fish populations the law, and to ensure that rebuilding plans were put in place to recover depleted fisheries. We knew from experience in places like the United States and the European Union that strong laws are necessary to ensure depleted fisheries are rebuilt.

Canada has 26 highly depleted fish populations, in the so-called "critical zone", only five of which have rebuilding plans. Thanks to the passage of Canada’s new Fisheries Act it is now the law to create rebuilding plans for these populations and get them out of the critical zone. The road to Canada getting more serious about rebuilding fish populations started when we presented our case for rebuilding to the government.

Present to the House of Commons: In November 2016, Oceana Canada presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, recommending that the Fisheries Act be amended to require rebuilding plans for depleted fish stocks. We gave examples of how making rebuilding the law worked in other countries and why it was so important for the health of the ocean and coastal communities.

Get Wavemakers to make waves: To raise more support for rebuilding we put a call out in July 2017 to our Wavemakers, asking them to contribute to the public consultation process on the Fisheries Act amendments.

Join forces: In August of 2017 we consulted with the Assembly of First Nations, collaborating with them to call on the government to make rebuilding fish populations a priority.

Monitor the Act’s progress: We were pleased to see major progress in February 2018, when the government announced a new Fisheries Act through Bill C-68, which included provisions for rebuilding fish populations. It wasn’t time to celebrate yet though, as the provisions left it to the discretion of the Minister whether to put in place rebuilding plans. The language in the Act needed to be stronger.

Lobby influencers: Throughout 2018 and 2019 we met with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the House of Commons and Senate Fisheries Committee and members of the Independent Senators Group to advocate for stronger provisions in Bill C-68 that would require rebuilding plans for all depleted fish populations, showing how such action would lead to a healthier ocean and strengthened coastal communities.

Celebrate Canada’s new Fisheries Act: In June 2019 Bill C-68 passed! For the first time in the history of the Fisheries Act it is now the law in Canada that fisheries be managed sustainably and rebuilding plans be put in place for depleted fish populations.

Globally, Oceana has achieved hundreds of concrete policy victories for marine life and habitats. These successes represent a new hope for the world's oceans, but we can’t do it without the support of people like you! You can join us by becoming a Wavemaker, you’ll get the latest ocean news and ways to take action to protect our oceans. Together we will continue to make a difference.