In what could have been a historic opportunity to close the loopholes which continue to allow the practice of shark finning in European waters, the European politicians who could have made that momentous step, chose otherwise. Yesterday, members of the EU fisheries committee voted in a ‘puzzling and inconsistent manner’ on amendments to current legislation which resulted in both rejection and support for current loopholes that hinder adequate enforcement.
Members voted against an attempt to widen loopholes allowing the fins to be removed from sharks at sea but then, in what some have called a “puzzling and contradictory move”, adopted proposed text suggesting exceptions for completely removing shark fins at sea. Votes on most amendments passed or failed by a narrow margin and produced contradictory messages that both reject and support loopholes that hinder finning ban enforcement.
This decision was welcomed by the Spanish Fisheries Confederation, one of the few member states who still issue special permits allowing sharks to be finned at sea and the fins and carcasses to be landed separately providing they meet the 5% rule (which many organisations have called into question) – Is the “5% rule” failing to protect sharks?
The Commission proposed last year to end the special permits that allow fishermen to remove shark fins on-board vessels. Landing sharks with their fins attached is by far the simplest and most reliable way to enforce finning bans. Spain and Portugal are the only EU Member States that still issue such permits.
At the time of writing the EU finning ban still allows for complicated exceptions which may lead to undetected, unpunished shark finning through special fishing permits granted by some member states. Fishermen onboard permitted vessels can remove shark fins whilst retaining the carcass. A fin to carcass weight ratio limit is used to judge whether fins and bodies landed are in the appropriate proportion though this 5% rule has already been called into question before in part due to the fact that fishermen are able to land shark fins and carcasses at separate times and at separate ports.
More information on this story is available here – http://www.sharkalliance.org/content.asp?did=38182