EU bans shark fins: should we break out the champagne?
The EU Parliament is known for its ability to avoid strong legislation against its major fisheries, so this toughening of the ban on shark finning last week was welcome news for shark advocates and environmental groups.
Pew Environment Group reports that the EU Parliament voted “after years of debate and procrastination” to close loopholes in the EU’s ban on shark finning.
Since 2003, removal of shark fins from bodies on board vessels has been banned in Europe, but this ban included an exception under which fishermen with permits could remove shark fins on board and then land them separately from the bodies. Compliance with the finning ban was monitored through a complicated process of measuring and comparing the weights of the fins with the theoretical weight of the live shark bodies.
This left significant room for undetected finning. The only permits that are still issued go to large Spanish and Portuguese longline vessels that catch sharks, mostly without limits, all over the world. In fact, each year, EU vessels are estimated to catch more than 100,000 tonnes of sharks and rays. A year ago, the European Commission proposed ending the permits because of difficulties with enforcement.
The difficulty may now come in getting final approval from EU fisheries ministers – and you could put money on protests coming from some sections of the Spanish and Portugese parliaments. Unless the whole of the EU enforces laws that require that shark carcasses be landed with fins attached, then finning will continue unabated.
It’s an easy move to usually point the finger at China, which is known for the trade in shark fins so upmarket restaurants can create a soup for wealthy customers. But the high price paid for shark fin on international markets – upwards of $300 a pound – means that all countries not complying with a wholesale ban on shark fin are responsible.
*Shark finning also violates the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and is contrary to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.