From time to time, we have campaigns and petitions flagged to us, asking for UK or European bans on the trade in shark fin. In the UK, these seem to have increased since leaving the EU... 

There’s a perception, based on Government responses in the past, that we’re now more able to take unilateral action on this issue. And that could indeed be the case. So why are the Shark Trust not leading the charge?

Our goal is to see a change in the way fisheries operate. To put science at the heart of decision making and setting sustainable limits on shark fisheries wherever possible. We believe that is the best and most realistic path to ensuring that shark populations are protected from the damaging effects of overfishing.


The case for banning fins is almost always communicated in the context of ending the practice of finning. But banning fins is not the same as banning finning. And banning the sale of fins, particularly in the UK, would unfortunately do very little to end the overfishing of sharks.

"This has to be the ultimate goal of all shark conservation – ending overfishing".

We’re very proud to have been key players in the global effort to end shark finning. And we continue to work tirelessly towards that goal.

Shark finning has been banned by many major fishing nations (including the EU). And by all of the international high-seas management bodies (RFMO’s). Fins Naturally Attached (FNA) is now recognised as best practice to strengthen these bans. Successful campaigning has seen FNA adopted by the EU, a number of RFMOs and many of the 70 nations that have adopted finning bans.


Despite the promising progress towards ending finning, the Fin Trade is, of course, still a concern. But there’s also a growing market for shark meat, concentrated in different global markets. Shark fisheries and their drivers are complex. Requiring a multitude of approaches to ensure appropriate management for these diverse and vulnerable species.

We have to consider the whole picture rather than focussing on a single part of it.

Put bluntly, banning the import of fins is not asking enough of our policymakers. It also potentially endangers future conservation efforts by focussing attention on an overly simplified solution to a complex problem.

Everyone has a right to decide their own campaign priorities. And it’s down to individual choice whether or not to support any campaign. But we’ve taken a position not to promote or support petitions that simply call to ban fins.

We completely understand why this could seem counterintuitive. But we’ve considered this carefully in light of the bigger picture and the pressing need to address overfishing – the biggest threat to sharks.


The issue of the shark fin trade can only help stem overfishing if, rather than banning fins altogether, we call for:

    • Strengthening of commitment to sustainable fisheries and protection of vulnerable species through science-based catch limits.

    • Full traceability in supply chains for all shark products.

    • Strengthened custom checks and enforcement of wildlife protection measures at borders. Including tightening of personal import allowances and requirements to declare.

These are realistic asks and we’re already advocating strongly for these vital changes. We feel that a simple ban on shark fins would detract from that vital endeavour.

UPDATE (August 2020):
As part of our ongoing engagement with the UK Government, we’re currently discussing the UK Fin Trade issue and how trade restrictions could be imposed at the same time as continuing the drive for sustainable shark fisheries and species protection internationally. We expect to be able to provide a further update on this in the near future.



Shark finning applies to the practice of removing fins at sea and returning the fin-less shark to the water. This is a highly wasteful practice and a major barrier to effective fisheries management. Best practice to end finning and close loopholes is the adoption of Fins Naturally Attached.

Key points to consider:

  • Banning fins is not the same as banning finning;

  • Not all fins come from finned sharks;

  • Where finning bans are enforced, shark fins can legitimately enter trade;

  • Global trade in fins is declining, whereas the trade in shark meat is increasing. The trade dynamics and consumer markets for meat and fin products differ;

  • Banning the sale of fins doesn't stop shark finning and has a negligible effect on reducing the overall mortality of sharks; and

  • A focus on fin bans perpetuates the misconception that the demand for shark fins is the only threat facing sharks.


The fins of a shark can be removed at sea, if the body is retained. This is not classed as shark finning. Neither is removing fins once ashore.

The fin trade is the subsequent export, import and sale of processed and unprocessed fin products. The global fin trade is significant, with TRAFFIC (2019) reporting an average of 16,177mt of shark fin products, with the average value of USD294 million imported from 2000-2016. Yet, it should be noted that there is also an overall declining trend over this time period.

UK’S POSITION IN THE FIN TRADE: The four largest importers of fins (Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, China, and Singapore) accounted for 90% of the average annual global imports for 2000-2016 (TRAFFIC 2019). In this context UK imports have historically been negligible in the context of the global trade. But recent UK import data identifies an anomaly in 2017 which is currently being investigated. The results of this investigation will inform the next steps with the UK Government.

Related Links:

► Click here to find out more about our Stop Shark Finning Campaign