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November 22, 2012

HSI Applauds European Parliament for Voting to Close Loopholes in EU Shark Finning Ban

Humane Society International/Europe

  • Members of the European have voted to end shark finning. Michael Stubblefield/iStock

STRASBOURG, France—Humane Society International applauds the European Parliament for voting to strengthen protection for sharks against the cruel and unsustainable practice of ‘finning’ - slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding its body at sea, sometimes while it is still alive.

Although shark finning was banned in the EU in 2003, the legislation contained loopholes that drastically undermined its effectiveness by not only allowing special permits for the onboard removal of fins, but also for fins and carcasses to be landed at different ports.

Standing up for shark conservation, MEPs today voted in support of the European Commission’s ‘fins naturally attached’ policy without exception, meaning shark carcasses can no longer be processed on board vessels but must be landed intact with fins ‘naturally attached’. This will not only stop live shark finning in EU waters and by EU vessels anywhere in the world, but will also end the practice of fins and carcasses being landed at different ports, which currently makes it impossible to enforce existing protection measures.

“We are thrilled that an overwhelming majority of MEPs rejected cynical, industry-driven attempts to weaken the European Commission’s proposal,” said HSI EU Director Joanna Swabe, Ph.D. “The Fisheries Committee rapporteur, Maria do Céu Patrâo Neves (EPP, Portugal), and her supporters had been intent on trying to maintain the status quo loophole by continuing to allow special permits to freezer vessels for shark fin removal onboard vessels. This would have been disastrous for shark protection not just in EU waters but worldwide. HSI commends the European Parliament for defending sharks against the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning.”

The adoption of a fins naturally attached policy in the EU will not only more effectively prevent shark finning by EU vessels, but would also see the EU making a major contribution to global efforts 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 primarily 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.

Following this Plenary vote in Parliament today, it is anticipated that the Commission’s proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003 on the removal of fins of sharks onboard vessels will also be adopted by Parliament’s co-legislators, the Council of the European Union. In March 2012, the Council already 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.


Media contact: Wendy Higgins, +44 (0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

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

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