Oceana: European Parliament to decide future of shark finning

Tomorrow, the European Parliament Fisheries Committee votes on closing loopholes in deeply flawed shark finning ban.

Press Release Date: September 18, 2012

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana urges the European Parliament Fisheries Committee to vote tomorrow in favour of a strict European ban on shark finning, which would require all sharks to be landed with their fins still attached. Although shark finning has theoretically been prohibited in the EU since 2003, loopholes in the current legislation make the ban practically impossible to enforce. The vote in Brussels is a key step towards rectifying the flawed legislation, which would then require the formal approval of the wider parliament before taking effect.

With the largest shark fisheries in the world, the EU has an acknowledged responsibility to act as an international leader in shark conservation and management,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “Tomorrow, Members of the European Parliament have a critical opportunity to display that leadership, by calling for a ban that actually works.”

Shark finning – the practice of cutting off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea – is technically prohibited in EU waters and on EU vessels worldwide, but an exemption allows Member States to issue special permits for fishing vessels to remove shark fins on board. Under the current system of controls, it is extremely difficult to detect when finning has occurred, not least because shark fins and carcasses can be landed in separate ports at separate times.

Oceana strongly supports landing sharks with their fins attached because:

  • It is the simplest and most effective means of guaranteeing that no finning occurs
  • It facilitates the collection of critical data about shark populations (because shark species are much easier to identify when their fins are still attached)

“Because finning is a widely recognised threat to shark populations, the fins-attached approach has already been adopted by many countries, including shark-fishing nations such as the USA and Chile,” added Dr. Allison Perry, marine wildlife scientist with Oceana Europe.Within the EU, the fins-attached policy is de facto already implemented by nearly all Member States – only Spain and Portugal continue to remove shark fins onboard vessels.”

Last week, an analysis by Oceana revealed that economic arguments against a strict finning ban, which were have been put forward by the Spanish and Portuguese fishing sector, are poorly justified.

The EU catches sharks in the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean, and Pacific Oceans. It is the largest shark fishing entity in the world (with 17% of reported shark catches in 2009) and is the largest exporter of shark fins to the main Hong Kong and mainland China.

Learn more: Sharks