Oceana urges European Commission to amend deeply flawed shark finning ban

EU accounts for 14% of the world’s reported shark catches.

February 21, 2011

Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, strongly urges the European Commission to move forwards on amending the EU shark finning ban, following a public consultation which closes today, by developing a strong proposal requiring all sharks to be landed with their fins still attached. The existing regulation on finning was intended to stop this wasteful practice, but is deeply flawed and extremely difficult to enforce.

“Scientists and international experts have increasingly recognized that a fins-attached approach can bring significant benefits for shark management and conservation, including simpler and more effective enforcement, and improved collection of data on shark catches, which is critical for improving our knowledge about the status of shark populations,” said Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director for Oceana in Europe.

Shark finning – the 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 been banned in the EU since 2003, some countries grant special fishing permits that allow vessels to remove fins on board, on the basis that they keep both fins and meat and that landed fins do not exceed 5% 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 very difficult.

In response to the European Commission’s consultation request, Oceana supports a fins-attached approach for the following reasons:

* to ensure that undetected finning does not occur under a fin-to-weight ratio that is too high for many species
* to make enforcement simpler and more effective by guaranteeing that shark fins and carcasses are landed together
* to improve the collection of critical data about shark catches

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