EU shark finning ban comes into effect

From Saturday, all sharks landed in EU ports and by EU vessels worldwide must have their fins still attached to their bodies.

Press Release Date: July 5, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

As of tomorrow, all sharks caught in European waters or by European vessels will have to be landed with their fins still naturally attached. Celebrating the arrival of the long-awaited, strict EU ban on shark finning, Oceana welcomes the new EU regulation’s entry into effect, on Saturday. It ends nearly a decade of battle to close several enforcement loopholes that had weakened the previous EU policy. In particular, an exemption used only by Spain and Portugal had allowed some vessels to remove shark fins at sea, which made it extremely difficult even to detect when finning had occurred.

At long last, the EU has a real and enforceable ban on shark finning, with global implications, commented Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. The EU catches more sharks than any country in the world, and plays a key role in regional fisheries management organisations where finning remains an acknowledged problem. After ten years with a flawed ban in place, it can now make a serious effort to tackle the issue internationally.

Since the beginning of its work in Europe, Oceana has campaigned for a strict ban on shark finning as one important aspect of improved shark fisheries management in the EU. Other priority measures include protection of threatened species and science-based, precautionary management of commercially fished species such as blue sharks and shortfin makos, including catch limits, spatial and temporal fishing closures, and long-term management plans. Currently, few species are subject to such measures, despite the fact that nearly one-third of assessed shark species are considered threatened.

Now that the finning ban has finally been amended, it’s time for the EU to focus on other, equally important measures to reduce fisheries threats to sharks, added Dr. Allison Perry, marine wildlife scientist with Oceana.  “The EU’s Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, adopted in 2009, laid out a broad suite of actions that were – and remain – necessary for these vulnerable fish.”

Learn more:

  • Shark finning, the practice of cutting off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea, is driven by the difference in price of high-value shark fins and lower-value shark meat.
  • Finning has technically been prohibited in the EU since 2003, but an exemption allowed Member States to issue special permits for fishing vessels to remove shark fins on board, provided that they retained and landed the carcass and that landed fins did not exceed 5% of the weight of sharks caught.
  • At least 17 countries worldwide that have also implemented ‘fins-attached’ policies.
  • Most European Member States already followed a fins-attached approach, as they had never granted, or had stopped granting exemptions to their vessels.
  • The EU catches sharks in the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean, and Pacific Oceans. It is the largest shark fishing power in the world (with 17% of reported shark catches in 2009) and is the largest exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong and mainland China.
  • Globally, 28% of assessed shark species are considered threatened with extinction.