It has been a banner year for shark conservation – and the good news just keeps rolling in, this time out of Europe.
Today the EU’s executive arm proposed a complete ban on shark finning, the practice of cutting off the fins of sharks, often while they are still alive, and then throwing the wounded animals back into the sea.
We’re proud to report that Oceana played a big part in securing this victory; our colleagues in Europe have been campaigning for a shark finning ban in the EU for years.
If the proposal is adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, all vessels fishing in EU waters and all EU vessels fishing anywhere in the world will have to land sharks with the fins still attached – a boon for vulnerable shark populations around the world.
The EU includes some of the world’s major shark fishing nations – Spain, France, Portugal, and the UK. The largest EU shark fisheries occur on the high seas, where Spanish and Portuguese pelagic longliners that historically targeted mainly tuna and swordfish now increasingly catch sharks, particularly oceanic species such as blue sharks and shortfin mako sharks. More than half of large oceanic shark species are currently considered threatened.
Globally, up to 73 million sharks are killed each year to satisfy the demand of the international shark fin market. EU nations combined catch the second-largest share of sharks – 14% of the world’s reported shark catches.
Today’s proposal strengthens the existing EU legislation banning shark finning, which allows shark finning in certain situations. Currently the fins and bodies can be separated on board vessels with special permits, and then landed at different ports. The EU tries to ensure that no bodies have been discarded by making sure the weight of the fins does not exceed 5 percent of the entire weight of the fish landed. The new rule would close this loophole.
“A stronger ban on shark finning will bring significant benefits for shark fisheries management and conservation, not only in Europe, but in all of the oceans where European vessels are catching sharks,” said Dr. Allison Perry, marine wildlife scientist with Oceana in Europe.
Congrats to everyone who helped score this huge win for sharks, and fingers crossed for approval by the EU Council and Parliament!