Belgium (21 Nov. 2011) - Humane Society
International/Europe applauds the European Commission for adopting a strong
draft legislative proposal on shark finning. This proposal seeks to amend
Regulation (EC) No. 1185/2003 on the removal of fins of sharks on board vessels
which is presently one of the weakest finning regulations in the world. The new
legislation would ensure that all sharks caught by EU vessels anywhere in the
world must be landed with their fins naturally attached to their carcasses,
are delighted that Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki has delivered a robust
proposal to close the gaping loopholes in the present EU shark finning
regulation," says HSI director for
the EU, Dr. Joanna Swabe. "It is, however, imperative that no attempt
be made by any EU Member States or Members of the European Parliament to water
down this legislative proposal. A 'fins naturally attached' policy, without
exception, is the only way to end the cruel and wasteful practice of shark
existing 2003 regulation on shark finning contains substantial loopholes that
leave plenty of room for finning to occur.
it includes a derogation that allows fishermen to remove the fins from sharks
on board if they have a special permit to do so. For the Spanish and Portuguese
longline fishing fleets, these permits have become the norm, rather than the
the EU has operated its shark fisheries under a "five percent rule" -
allowing fins to be landed separately from carcasses, provided that they weigh
no more than five percent of the whole shark. This means, in practice, two out
of three sharks can still be finned while fishers apparently comply with the
five percent rule.
European Union is one of the largest exporters of shark fins to Asia. Spain and Portugal have the largest shark
fisheries in Europe, with pelagic longline fleets that operate in the Atlantic,
Pacific and Indian Oceans.
public consultation conducted by the European Commission, which presented three
possible policy options with regard to amending the regulation, found massive
public support for a "fins-attached" policy.
- Most shark fins are unrecognisable, in
terms of species, unless they are attached to the carcass. Conversely, many
carcasses cannot be identified by species when detached from the fins. The
Commission itself admits this problem of identification is a serious obstacle
to rational management of the EU's shark fisheries.
- The current EU regulation allows room for
"high-grading." Fishers have been found to be removing and retaining
high-value carcasses and high-value fins, while throwing overboard the
low-value carcasses and fins. This enables them to fin large numbers of sharks
and still present a catch at port that appears to abide by the five percent
- Shark carcasses may be landed at one port
and fins at another. This makes it virtually impossible to apply the five
- Sharks are very vulnerable to overfishing.
Some European shark fisheries closed in the 1950s have yet to re-open because
stocks have not rebounded.
- One-third of European shark and ray
species and one-third of open-ocean sharks are classified as
"threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Significant numbers of open-ocean sharks, blue and mako in particular, are
taken in EU high seas fisheries.
- Economic growth in Asia has resulted in
increasing demand for shark fin soup, the principal driver of shark finning.
Sharks that used to be considered unwanted "bycatch" are now targeted
specifically for their fins.
- Spain has consistently been in the top
seven exporters to almost all major markets, including Hong Kong, China and
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