Wednesday, August 15, 2012

UK Minister Dives Into Shark Conservation

Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon with Julie Girling Member of the European Parliament, took to the water last week, to swim with sharks and demonstrate their support for shark conservation and for closing the loopholes in the EU ban on shark 'finning' (slicing off a shark's fins and discarding the body at sea).

The swim launched a Shark Trust initiative asking MEPs and aquariums across the country to work together to show their support for tighter shark finning regulations ahead of crucial votes this autumn.

In March this year, the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers adopted a position in favour of a proposal to strengthen the EU finning ban by requiring that all sharks be landed with their 'fins naturally attached'. The UK championed the proposal with only Spain and Portugal opposing. The European Parliament must also support the proposal for it to enter into force. The European Parliament Fisheries Committee will vote on the issue in September before it is submitted to a vote in plenary in October.

The Minister explained: "We oppose shark finning and the ban that is currently in place is far too lenient. The UK already requires all sharks to be landed with their fins attached and now Europe needs to follow our lead and listen to the 165,000 people who petitioned for a stronger ban."

With European vessels providing around a third of the fins to the Hong Kong fin trade, the Shark Trust, with its partners across Europe in the Shark Alliance, has campaigned for science based shark conservation and a tightened ban on 'finning' for many years.

Ali Hood Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust commented: "Only two EU member states, Spain and Portugal, continue to remove shark fins at sea and it is time for Europe to bring its regulation in line with other nations who have adopted more effective management regimes."

Several UK Members of the European Parliament have been vocal in their support for the proposed change, intervening in heated debates.

"The European Parliament first called for a strengthened finning ban in 2006 and reaffirmed our commitment in 2010" pointed out Julie Girling, MEP for the Southwest and Gibraltar. "After six years of debate, we must take the opportunity we have this autumn to show we have listened to scientists, conservationists, and the public, and insist that sharks are landed with their fins attached."

The Minister and Mrs Girling took the plunge in the shark tank of the SEA LIFE London Aquarium. "One of our priorities at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium is to ensure all visitors are educated about the threats to sharks and other marine life" said Rebecca Carter, Conservation Co-ordinator, "This was demonstrated by the recent petition to ban shark finning where we obtained 15,000 signatures. The SEA LIFE London Aquarium encourages other aquariums to also invite their local MEPs to help highlight the problem of shark finning and the opportunity for Europe to close the loopholes."

Ali Hood concluded: "we urge the UK's MEPs recall their previous support and vote to adopt fins naturally attached with no exceptions."

Photo courtesy of Robbie Sloan