Oceana welcomes EU fish council conclusions urging quick action for shark conservation in Europe
EU Fisheries Ministers emphasised the need for immediate action to protect sharks and prioritised strengthening the shark finning regulation
Press Release Date: May 11, 2010
The EU Fisheries Council meeting today in Luxembourg has adopted the Council Conclusions on the EU Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, supports the statement of the EU Fisheries Ministers, which endorses the Plan while also urging it is implemented without delay.
While the EU Plan of Action, adopted early February 2009 by the European Commission, represents a positive and necessary step forward, Oceana previously remarked that the Plan lacked ambition and an implementation timeline. These positive Council Conclusions provide an impetus for the Commission to rapidly strengthen existing, and propose new, legislation in favour of shark conservation.
“We’ve been noting some positive changes regarding sharks lately, at least in the proposals made by the EU and certain Member states. However, these have remained just that- proposals. We hope that these moves do not remain just talk and that real legislation is promptly adopted,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana Europe. “We welcome the Council’s conclusions on the shark plan and now expect the Commission to propose legislation as quickly as possible.”
European waters have approximately 140 species of sharks and rays. However, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has noted that one-third of these are threatened with extinction. The main reason is fisheries overexplotation. Sharks’ slow reproductive cycle make them particularly vulnerable to both targeted and accidental fishing. The EU is home to some important shark fishing nations, including France, Portugal, the UK and Spain.
Specifically, the Council Conclusions call on the Commission to rapidly present a detailed timeline for the items outlined in the Plan of Action, something Oceana had noted was missing when the Plan was first published. Oceana backs the Council’s call to pay special attention to reducing by-catches and discards of sharks and to establish a coherent approach to shark policies both internally in the EU and externally with Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and multilateral environmental agreements.
Regarding the issue of shark finning, Oceana is pleased to see the Council encouraging amendments to the EU regulation be proposed as quickly as possible. The EU finning regulation is currently one of the weakest in the world, due to loopholes in the text that allow shark fins to be removed on board and landed separately from the bodies. To truly put an end to shark finning, Oceana urges an elimination of these derogations and a requirement for a “fins attached” policy, in which all sharks must be landed with their fins naturally attached to the body. This policy is often cited by scientists and conservationists as the simplest and most efficient way to put an end to shark finning.
Oceana notes that the United States government, responding to a similar concern with its finning prohibition, is already moving forward in strengthening its regulation. The Shark Conservation Act of 2009, including a requirement for all sharks caught in U.S. waters to be landed whole with their fins still attached, was introduced into the U.S. Senate yesterday for consideration. Similar legislation was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. Once passed into law, the United States would join other countries including, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Colombia, that employ this practice.
“The Fishery Ministers are urging the EU to take a leading role in shark conservation and management worldwide. We look forward to seeing this happen. Europe’s vulnerable sharks and rays have been waiting a long time to be saved, and we hope their chance is finally here,” concluded Rebecca Greenberg, shark campaigner with Oceana Europe.
Oceana has photo and video images of sharks
 COM(2009) 40 final
 Shark finning is the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and returning the dead or dying body back to sea. This practice is prohibited in the EU with Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003 and fishermen must keep the bodies onboard. However, derogations in the regulation allow fins to be removed from sharks on board, and allow the shark fins and bodies to be landed at separate ports. This complicates enforcement and impedes collection of data, making the finning prohibition largely impractical. Scientists and conservationists overwhelmingly note that a “fins attached” policy is the most accurate and efficient way to end shark finning. With this policy, all sharks must be landed at port with their fins attached to the body in a natural manner.