Welcome news indeed is that UK ministers are to announce during European Shark Week a complete ban on shark finning in UK waters. Under the planned legislation all sharks must be landed with their fins still attached.
Although a similar ban was imposed back in 2003 by the EU, loopholes mean that sharks continue to be finned. Shark fins can fetch in excess of £200 per kilo due to the high demand for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy, hence the strong financial incentive to cut the fins off at sea and discard the comparatively worthless body. Essentially, with the appropriate permit, sharks could still be finned provided the weight of fins on the vessel did not exceed 5% of the weight of shark carcasses on board. The idea was that this would force fisherman to land the whole shark, which would then take up considerably more storage space than the fins alone, thereby making it impractical to land as many fins – and consequently sharks – as they normally would.
However, the 5% limit is now thought to be far too high, allowing vessels to continue finning and simply keep a few carcasses to maintain the ratio. Hundreds of tonnes of shark fin have still been landed by the UK fleet since the EU shark finning regulation was brought into force 5 years ago.
As such this move by the whole UK, hot on the tails of a similar announcement from Scotland, should mark a dramatic decrease in the vast number of sharks being hauled out of British waters and therefore help towards protecting local shark populations from declining to the point of extinction.
Nonetheless the majority of finning in European waters is conducted by Spanish and Portuguese fleets, and their subsequent cooperation and adoption of similar legislation will be necessary in order to implement an effective EU ban on shark finning. Realising this, UK ministers plan to write to Joe Borg, the European commissioner for fisheries and maritime affairs, to highlight the pressing need to review EU legislation on shark finning in a similar manner. Add your voice to calls for better shark conservation and for Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero to support a stronger finning ban by signing the petition here: www.europeansharkweek.org
Shark finning is one of the major threat to shark populations around the globe, watch Save Our Sharks for more information.