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June 29, 2011

Shark Finning and the European Union

Humane Society International/Europe

  • Sharks need stronger protection. istockphoto

Update: On 6 June 2013, the Council of the European Union completed the final step to close loopholes in EU shark finning ban. By adopting a "fins naturally attached" policy without exception, the EU has now effectively ended the practice of shark finning by EU vessels.

HSI is delighted that this multi-year campaign goal has been successfully achieved. We will continue to work to reduce the demand for shark fins and encourage the introduction legislation to stop the practice of shark finning in other countries around the world.

Although 27 countries and the European Union now ban shark finning, the current EU legislation (Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003), introduced in 2003, is  one of the weakest in the world, with gaping loopholes that allow the practice of shark finning to continue.

The EU Regulation allows a special permit to be granted for the on-board removal of fins from carcasses, whilst stipulating a specific weight ratio between the separated fins and carcasses when landed at port, making the assessment of compliance with finning bans difficult.

A fins-attached policy

Humane Society International believes that the EU must adopt a fins-attached policy without exception. This is the only option if shark finning is to be stopped. In addition, enacting such regulations will greatly enhance the EU’s ability to adopt meaningful shark conservation measures.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recommended that sharks be landed with their fins attached, and ten countries have adopted “fins-attached” regulations. Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Oman, Panama, the United Kingdom and the United States require that sharks must be landed with their fins still attached to the carcass.

Progress is being made

In 2006, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission to strengthen the EU shark finning legislation and  progress is being made.

On 16th December 2010, the European Parliament  adopted a Resolution on shark finning that called on the European Commission to deliver a proposal to prohibit the removal of shark fins on-board vessels. This Resolution was passed after 423 MEPs signed Written Declaration 71/2010 on strengthening the EU ban on shark finning.

In March 2011, HSI called on the European Commission to prohibit the removal of shark fins on board vessels without exception.

In November 2011, the European Commission adopted a strong draft legislative proposal on shark finning. The new legislation would ensure that all sharks caught by EU vessels anywhere in the world must be landed with their fins naturally attached to their carcasses, without exception.

On 19 March 2012, the Council of the European Union adopted a general approach supporting the Commission's proposal to close the loopholes in the current EU shark finning legislation by ensuring that all sharks are landed with their fins naturally attached without exception. It is believed that Spain and Portugal were the only EU Member States to raise objections to the Commission's proposal.

In the European Parliament, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety voted overwhelmingly in favour of a robust opinion supporting the Commission's proposal in April 2012.

On 19 September 2012, the  Fisheries Committee voted on a draft report, which sought to maintain the status quo by continuing to permit the removal of shark fins on board freezer vessels. Although the Committee voted in favour of the Commission's proposal to delete the derogations from the legislation to ensure that all sharks are landed with their fins naturally attached, the report contains serious discrepancies that need to be rectified at the Plenary vote.

On 22 Novemeber 2012, the European Parliament voted to strengthen protection for sharks against the cruel and unsustainable practice of shark finning by closing loopholes in the current EU legislation (Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003). MEPs supported the European Commission's proposal for a fins naturally attached policy without exception by 566-47. It is anticipated that the Parliament's co-legislators, the Council of the European Union, will also adopt the Commisssion's proposal.

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