European Union Closes Loopholes in Shark Finning Ban

BRUSSELS – The EU Council of Ministers today formally adopted a strengthened EU ban on shark finning, the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea.

The need to strengthen the 2003 EU finning ban has been debated for years. The European Commission issued a proposal in November 2011 to require that fins be left naturally attached to all sharks brought to port. In November 2012, the European Parliament voted 566-47 in favour of the related report. Today, the Council of Ministers accepted the text agreed with Parliament, confirming the position fisheries ministers adopted in March 2012, and concluding the process to establish a new EU regulation.

The Shark Alliance, which has been campaigning on this issue for years, congratulates EU fisheries ministers, the European Parliament, and the European Commission for achieving an agreement that finally closes all loopholes in the EU finning ban, and thanks the many groups and individuals who worked for such an outcome.

The regulation will come into force seven days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The EU banned finning in 2003, but the associated regulation included an exception under which fishermen with permits could remove shark fins on board vessels and then land them separately from the bodies, with compliance monitored through a complicated process of measuring and comparing the weights of the fins with the weight of the whole shark, leaving significant room for undetected finning.

Prohibiting at-sea removal of shark fins, and thereby requiring that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached, is widely regarded as the most reliable means for implementing a finning ban. The fins-naturally-attached strategy also allows for improved, species-specific landing data, which are essential for population assessment and fisheries management.

The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 130 organisations dedicated to science-based shark conservation. The Shark Alliance was initiated and is coordinated by The Pew Charitable Trusts.