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September 19, 2012

A step forward on the EU shark finning ban – but with a confusing twist



We took a huge step forward today, with the Fisheries Committee vote on the EU shark finning ban. The Committee voted to close major loopholes in the ban, which allowed some countries (namely Spain and Portugal) to land sharks with their fins already removed from their body, in separate ports, at separate times (making it very difficult to monitor whether the finning ban is being followed properly). Importantly, the Committee voted to eliminate Article 4, the derogation allowing vessels with special fishing permits to remove shark fins on board. They also voted in favour of amendments emphasising the fact that many shark species are threatened, that the EU fleet targets sharks, and calling for better reporting about compliance with the ban.

But there is also some confusion about what happened.

In particular, two amendments were approved that refer to Article 4 – the same article that they voted to eliminate. One of these defines what a special fishing permit is, and the other states that “shark fins may be partially sliced through and folded against the carcass, or, in the cases indicated in Article 4, completely removed from the carcass.”

One of the Fisheries Committee members pointed out that a mistake had occurred – that an amendment had been approved referring to a derogation that no longer exists – but the chair did not allow them to revote.

So that’s where we are. Let’s call it a stumbling, but great step forward.