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September 19, 2012

HSI Statement on Confusing EP Fisheries Committee Vote to Adopt Shark Finning Report with Discrepancies

Humane Society International

  • The battle to close all existing loopholes for shark finning in the EU is far from over. Michael Stubblefield/istock

BRUSSELS—Humane Society International applauds the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee for rejecting the majority of critical amendments to a cynical, industry-driven report by Portuguese Christian Democrat MEP Maria do Céu Patrão Neves. This report sought to preserve a key loophole in the European Union’s current shark finning legislation, which still allows the onboard removal of shark fins on vessels holding Special Fishing Permits.

Yet, while the Committee voted to delete the two key articles in Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003, which set down the rules for the issuing of such permits and processing of fins onboard, a small majority of MEPs contradicted their own positions by voting in favour of two amendments providing a definition of a Special Fishing Permit and description of how shark fins may – under conditions listed in the two key articles that the Committee also deleted – be completely removed from the carcass.

“This has created a situation of complete confusion with the rapporteur and those MEPs seeking to achieve a 100 per cent fins naturally attached policy in the EU both claiming victory” says HSI EU director, Joanna Swabe, PhD. “A clear majority of MEPs supported the Commission’s proposal to delete the two key articles in the EU shark finning ban that currently permit fins to be sliced off sharks at sea under certain conditions. If the voting order had been different, these amendments would automatically have fallen because they are necessarily cancelled out by the deletion of the two articles. It is simply a case of a poorly constructed voting list and a quirk in voting by one or two politicians that has resulted in this ambiguous final report. This will undoubtedly be rectified at the Plenary vote, but it is clear that the battle to hermitically seal the loopholes in one of the weakest shark finning bans in the world is still far from over.”

HSI will continue to strive to ensure that the European Parliament eliminates these discrepancies - and firmly rejects any attempts by the rapporteur to reintroduce negative amendments - at the Plenary vote. Mrs Patrão Neves’ aim is to maintain the status quo by continuing to allow special permits to freezer vessels for shark fin removal onboard vessels. This would be disastrous for shark protection and would only serve to satisfy the Portuguese and Spanish fishing industries. The only way to ensure an effective and enforceable finning ban is to implement a fins naturally attached policy without exception. This and this alone will eradicate the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning.

HSI particularly commends MEPs Julie Girling (ECR, UK), Kriton Arsenis (S&D, Greece), Chris Davies (ALDE, UK) and Raül Romeva i Rueda (Greens/EFA, Spain) for tabling amendments to further strengthen the Commission’s proposal and for demonstrating their unstinting support for the improved protection of sharks. The Fisheries Committee voted in favour of every single one of their amendments. This in itself indicates majority support in the Committee for the fins naturally attached position.

There is already broad political support for the Commission’s proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003 on shark fin removal on-board vessels. In March 2012, the Council of the European Union adopted a general approach in favour of closing the loopholes in the present EU shark finning legislation. Spain and Portugal - the only two EU Member States to still issue special permits for the onboard processing of shark fins - were the only countries to raise objections to the proposal.

In April 2012, the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety also voted overwhelmingly in favour of a robust opinion supporting a fins naturally attached policy.

The date for the plenary vote in Strasbourg must still be confirmed. However, HSI anticipates broad support for the Commission’s proposal within the Parliament at large given that 423 MEPs have already signed a Written Declaration calling for the strengthening of Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003 in December 2010.  

The adoption of a fins naturally attached policy would not only more effectively prevent shark finning by EU vessels, but would also constitute a major contribution by the EU to the global effort to eradicate shark finning by advocating fins attached policies in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, such as ICCAT and IOTC.

Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year in oceans around the world to meet the demand for shark fin soup, an East Asian dish traditionally served at weddings or New Year celebrations. The European Union is one of the largest exporters of shark fins to Asia, despite the fact that one-third of European shark and ray species and one-third of open-ocean sharks are classified as “threatened” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  


Media Contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras, +1 (301-721-6440), rcontreras@humanesociety.org

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations—backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide—On the Web at hsi.org.