Although shark finning is technically banned in European waters and for EU vessels, loopholes in the current legislation make it extremely difficult to enforce. The European Parliament is currently debating a proposal which would require all sharks to be landed with their fins still attached (see the article “Is the “5% rule” failing to protect sharks?” which discusses current management measures).
“The Environment Committee has added its voice to those of international scientists and shark experts who recognise that landing sharks with their fins still naturally attached is the only means of ensuring that shark finning is eradicated,” said Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana Europe. “The European Council has already expressed its support for the ban, and we trust that the Fisheries Committee and the rest of the Parliament will follow suit to close the loopholes in this flawed legislation.”
Shark finning – the wasteful practice of cutting off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea – is driven by high international value for shark fins, but relatively lower value for shark meat. While finning has theoretically been prohibited in the EU since 2003, some countries grant special fishing permits that allow fishing vessels to remove shark fins on board, on the basis that they keep both fins and meat and that landed fins do not exceed 5 per cent of the live weight of sharks caught. This ratio is among the most lenient globally, and an additional loophole in the legislation allows fins and carcasses to be landed separately, making monitoring difficult.
The fins of up to 73 million sharks are traded each year in the international shark fin market. EU nations combined catch the largest share of sharks and rays – 16 per cent of the world’s reported shark and ray catches in 2009.
This article is available here.