Thursday, November 22, 2012

European Parliament Votes at Last for Stronger Shark Finning Ban

The Shark Alliance welcomes the European Parliament’s vote to close loopholes in the European Union ban on shark finning, the practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea. After years of debate, 566 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted today in Strasbourg in favour of a report endorsing the European Commission’s proposal to require that fins be left naturally attached to all sharks that are brought to port.

“Parliament’s vote represents a major milestone in the global effort to end the wasteful practice of shark finning,” said Sandrine Polti, EU shark policy adviser for the Pew Environment Group and policy adviser for the Shark Alliance. “Our diverse coalition has been working toward this and other fundamental reforms in European shark policies for more than six years and is thrilled with today’s vote and the progress we expect to stem from it.”

The 2003 EU regulation that banned finning included an exception under which fishermen with permits can remove shark fins on board and then land them separately from the bodies. Compliance is monitored through a complicated process of measuring and comparing the weights of the fins with the weight of the whole shark, which leaves significant room for undetected finning.

The European Parliament called for improvements in the EU finning ban in 2006 and urged the commission in 2010 to propose an end to at-sea shark fin removal. The commission’s proposal, released in November 2011, was endorsed by the Council of Ministers and the Parliament’s Environment Committee in the spring of 2012. The Parliament’s Fisheries Committee deliberations have been lengthy and at times confused, with several MEPs fighting hard to maintain loopholes.

“We congratulate the European Commission for leadership in this long effort and extend our gratitude to the 25 EU Fisheries Ministers and hundreds of MEPs who supported a stronger EU finning ban, as well as the tens of thousands of European citizens who encouraged them to do so,” Polti said.

“Shark Alliance member groups look forward to continued cooperation in shepherding and promoting a final ‘fins-attached’ rule and in securing complementary safeguards, such as domestic and international catch limits, to fully address the overexploitation of sharks.”

Photo courtesy of NOAA's National Ocean Service via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)