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Conservation

European Union stepping up the fight against shark finning

by Lucy Brake 17 Nov 2010
European Union stepping up the fight against shark finning

The EU is home to some of the world's major shark fishing nations, but also has some of the weakest shark finning legislation. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, approximately one third of shark species are threatened in EU waters.

So the EU is now taking more decisive action to protect this important species. Whilst they banned shark finning in EU waters back in 2003, there are loop holes that have been found by fishermen; meaning that fishing vessels have been able to continue to fin sharks without punishment.

Shark finning is a barbaric method used to acquire what has become almost as valuable as gold. While shark fin soup is in hot demand in Asian countries, the rest of the shark is literally not worth keeping.

So fishermen will catch a live shark, pull it onto the boat, slice off the fin and then toss the body back into the water. This means the shark will die a painful and prolonged death as it struggles to swim or to breathe without its fin.

Now the European Commission is consulting on closing the loop hole by completely removing shark finning from their waters. They also plan to stop any EU registered fishing vessel from being able to fin sharks anywhere in the world's oceans.

"For too long, the EU has left the door open to shark finning," said Uta Bellion, director of the Pew Environment Group's European Marine Programme and European coordinator of the Shark Alliance. "This consultation could result in a substantial policy improvement; particularly if the one truly reliable option for preventing finning, a complete prohibition on the removal of shark fins at sea, is adopted."

The intention is that the fins will have to remain attached to the shark until the vessels have returned to port. This way, better checks can be made of vessels at each port, enforcement can be improved and better data on species-specific catch can be collected to help with future shark protection and management.


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