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Stop Shark Finning Campaign
➤ Stronger Shark Finning Ban Clears Final Hurdle in EU - 6 Jun 2013
Shark finning is the process of cutting off the fins of a shark and discarding the body, often still alive, at sea. This wasteful and often cruel practice is currently the greatest threat facing sharks, contradicting all principles of sustainable shark fisheries management and conservation.
Tens of millions of sharks are caught each year for their fins - an upper estimate proposes that the fins of as many as 73 million sharks are traded annually (1).
Shark finning is illegal in many parts of the world including Europe but in most countries it is still legal to buy and sell shark fins. Furthermore, weak legislation and ineffective enforcement often undermines shark finning regulations. While fins are very valuable, shark meat has limited commercial value, which encourages the exploitation of regulatory loopholes. Shark finning is rife with three to four times more fins being traded than can be accounted for in global fisheries statistics. The major source of demand for shark fins is the market for shark fin soup.
Most sharks grow slowly, mature late and give birth to a few large pups after a long gestation period. Consequently, shark populations decline rapidly when targeted by fisheries and recover slowly, if at all. Shark populations may continue to decline and some species may become regionally extinct. There are now 135 species of chondrichthyan (shark, skate, ray and chimaera) fish listed in a threat category on the IUCN's Red List, with a further 106 species listed as Near Threatened (2).
Shark finning occurs worldwide and is most common in high seas fisheries, hundreds of miles out to sea. Oceanic fishing fleets target valuable fish such as tuna, using thousands of baited hooks on miles of long-line, and freezing their catch on-board. Unfortunately, long-liners often catch several times as many sharks than they do tuna. Until relatively recently, this shark 'bycatch' was considered a nuisance, and sharks were cut loose and allowed to swim away. However, as shark fins have become increasingly valuable, fewer sharks are being released. Bycatch is often not officially landed at ports; therefore data on the extent of the trade are limited. Where figures exist, they suggest that Hong Kong is the world’s shark fin trading centre, accounting for an estimated 50%-80% of all fins traded worldwide. The EU has supplied approximately one third of all fins imported into Hong Kong.
The Shark Trust has successfully campaigned on shark finning issues for over a decade and was heavily involved in the adoption of the EU shark finning ban in 2003. We were responsible for the UK Government’s enforcement of a ban on the removal of fins on all UK vessels in 2009, and, as a founder member of the Shark Alliance campaign, heavily involved in the review of the EU finning regulation that finally led to the adoption of a fins naturally attached policy on all EU vessels in 2013.
We continue to work with governments, industry and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) to tighten shark finning regulations and ensure compliance, whilst promoting the unsustainable nature of the fin trade: tackling both supply and demand.
➤ Join the campaign and stop the unsustainable trade in shark fins.