PRESS RELEASE: UK Acts to End Shark Finning!

12 Oct 2009

UK// The Shark Trust marks European Shark Week 2009 by heralding a UK decision to lead in the battle against shark “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) with a complete ban on removal of shark fins at sea. The Shark Trust, a founding member of the Shark Alliance, has campaigned against finning and for this groundbreaking policy for years.
 
The EU banned finning and removal of shark fins at sea in 2003, but loopholes in the regulation limit its effectiveness. For instance, under a derogation, EU Member States can grant special permits that allow their fishing vessels to remove shark fins at sea as long as the amount of fins on aboard is kept under five percent of the weight of shark bodies. The EU’s allowable fin to carcass ratio is the highest in the world and widely criticized for hampering enforcement and data collection while providing room for finning to occur undetected and unpunished. Hundreds of tonnes of shark fin have been landed by the UK fleet under these permits since the EU shark finning regulation was adopted.

Following persistent lobbying by the Shark Trust and their supporters, UK Fisheries Ministers announced their decision to end the provision of these permits, thereby ensuring the UK fleet complies with the original intent of the finning ban – that sharks are landed with their fins naturally attached.

Shark fins can sell for more than £200 per kilo for use in the Asian delicacy shark fin soup. The high value of fins in relation to shark meat creates an economic incentive for “finning”.  The shark fin trade is a primary threat to shark populations with tens of millions of sharks killed each year for their fins alone. Shortfin Mako, Blue, Silky, Smooth Hammerheads and Thresher Sharks along with deepwater species such as Portuguese Dogfish and Gulper Sharks have all been targeted by the UK fleet. Requiring that sharks are landed with their fins attached removes any opportunity to fin, eases the enforcement burden, and facilitates species-specific data collection.

The UK public and Members of Parliament have enthusiastically supported the Shark Trust’s campaign, adding significant voice to the cause. An Early Day Motion, presented to Parliament in early 2009, was endorsed by all parties.

Shadow Environment Minister for the Liberal democrats and sponsor of the Early Day Motion, Martin Horwood commented to the Shark Trust: “When I appreciated that the UK was one of just a handful of EU Member States that still allowed the removal of shark fins at sea I was appalled. The shark finning Early Day Motion demonstrated the strength of support across all political parties. Parliament was calling for the UK to support sound shark conservation measures. I am pleased that Mr Irranca-Davies and Mr Lochhead have ceased the provision of these permits”.

With more than 250 permits between them, Spain and Portugal are now the primary obstacles to an effective EU finning ban and represent the focus of public activities for European Shark Week 2009. UK Ministers are writing to Commissioner Borg to request an urgent review of the Shark Finning Regulation.

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