EU - The European Council of Ministers has taken the final step toward strengthening the EU ban on shark finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea).
The Council endorsed the best practice for finning ban enforcement (requiring sharks be landed with fins still attached) more than a year ago and has now signed off on the associated official regulatory text agreed through consultation with the European Commission and Parliament.
All along the way, the measure has faced formidable opposition from Spain and Portugal, Europe’s leaders in catch of oceanic sharks.
“At long last, we are mere weeks away from seeing the EU convert its shark finning ban from an embarrassment of loopholes to a model of best practices,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust.
“Implementation of the new ‘fins-attached’ regulation, particularly in the EU’s far-reaching, high volume shark fisheries, represents a momentous step forward for shark conservation and the culmination of many years of targeted advocacy.”
The EU banned finning in 2003, but the associated regulation included loopholes allowing shark fins to be removed on board and landed separately from shark bodies, which hampers enforcement. Requiring that shark fins remain attached to shark bodies through landing is widely acknowledged as the most reliable means for implementing finning bans. This method can also yield valuable species-specific catch data as sharks are harder to identify to species level once their fins have been removed.
“Strong finning bans are fundamental to effective shark fisheries management and particularly important for shark fishing powers like the EU,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International.
“Because of the EU’s significant influence at international fisheries bodies, the new ‘fins-attached’ regulation holds great promise for combating the wasteful practice of finning and improving our understanding of shark catches on a global scale.”
The conservation groups stressed that finning bans alone are insufficient to save sharks and underscored their commitment to secure additional, complementary safeguards including science-based limits on shark catches.
EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, commented on the adoption of this amended regulation by the Council: "No more more shark finning in Europe! I welcome the Council's decision to follow up on the Commission proposal to introduce a shark finning ban in the EU. After the Parliament endorsing this ban earlier, it needed this last step to confirm this legislation. We can say that the practice of shark finning has been banned from the EU once and for all and for good."
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