Today the European parliament voted in favour of completely closing the loopholes in the EU shark finning ban: more than that they voted by an overwhelming majority of 566:47. This excellent news comes after some uncertainty regarding the issue due to opposition by some member states.
This vote means that commercial vessels would be required to land shark carcasses with fins naturally attached. Previously, fishermen have been allowed to remove shark fins at sea and land them at different times and in different ports as long as they followed the so-called “5% rule” as detailed in this SSTP article several weeks ago – Is the “5%” Rule” failing to protect sharks?
The 5% rule is supposed to allow processing of shark carcasses at sea, however research showed that the lenient rule allowed for nearly 1 shark to be finned and thrown overboard for every shark that is finned and landed. This made monitoring and policing the fishery extremely difficult.
The 5% rule was heavily criticised by scientists who claimed that “the whole fin-to-carcass ratio approach is flawed. There is only one solution to really ensure an end to shark finning: landing caught sharks with their fins still naturally attached.”
When raised in the EU Parliament the discussion drew opposition from the Spanish Fisheries Confederation, one of the few member states who still issued special permits allowing sharks to be finned at sea and the fins and carcasses to be landed separately. This led to a confusing vote by the EU Fisheries Commitee which was deemed “puzzling and inconsistent” by some bodies as discussed in this article – EU votes against closing shark finning loopholes.
The EU Fisheries ministers have already overwhelmingly stated their support for this draft legislation informally, so we have good reason to believe the EU Council will accept the parliament’s vote and adopt the legislation as proposed by the EU Commission, so that sharks caught in EU waters or by EU vessels globally need to be landed with their fins naturally attached, thereby ensuring that the ban on shark finning will work in practice.