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Confusing Vote on EU Shark Finning Regulation

Sep. 19/12

Today, the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries backed the European ban on shark finning and confirmed that the Committee wants to see stricter controls but the vote on a report by Maria do Ceu Patrao Neves (EPP, Portugal) has led to confusion on the issue of whether or not special fishing permits that allow fishermen to remove shark fins on-board vessels will be upheld.

The European Parliament must set the EU back on course towards adopting measures against removing shark fins at sea, without any more exceptions, measures that will ensure sustainability of European shark populations over the long term

Suzanne Pleydell, Project AWARE Director

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who sit on the Fisheries Committee supported the essential principle of the current regulation but their position on whether or not to maintain these special permits was distinctly less clear. Spain and Portugal are the only EU Member States that still issue these permits.

MEPs voted in a puzzling and inconsistent manner on a series of amendments that form their response to the European Commission proposal released in 2011 to strengthen the EU shark finning ban. Votes on most amendments passed or failed by a narrow margin and produced contradictory messages that both reject and support loopholes that hinder finning ban enforcement.

Ms. Patrão Neves, MEP from Portugal, has been using her role as Rapporteur to fight against adoption of the Commission’s proposed improvements to the current ban which was finalized in 2003. Today her attempt to widen loopholes in the finning regulation was defeated, but – in a contradictory move – MEPs adopted her proposed text suggesting exceptions for completely removing shark fins at sea. In the end, most of her problematic amendments were rejected, but the lack of clarity in accepted language presents a threat to finalizing a strong finning ban.

Project AWARE strongly supports the European Commission’s proposal to strenghten the ban by prohibiting at-sea removal of shark fins, thereby requiring that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached. Landing sharks with their fins still attached is by far the simplest and most reliable way to enforce finning bans and the method is gaining acceptance worldwide. 

"The full Parliament must set the EU back on course towards adopting measures against removing shark fins at sea, without any more exceptions, measures that will ensure sustainability of European shark populations over the long term", says Suzanne Pleydell, Project AWARE Director.“We'll keep pushing and rallying support for a strict EU shark finning regulation for as long as it takes".

Project AWARE particularly commends Julie Girling, MEP for the South West England and Gibraltar, and UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon for championing the shark conservation cause and demonstrating their support for a strong and enforceable shark finning ban throughout the "Make the Final Push to Protect Europe's Sharks" campaign. Last August, they swam with sharks at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium at an event aimed at rallying support from a majority of MEPs.

In the next coming months, Project AWARE and all our Shark Alliance partners will continue to urge all MEPS to promptly remove all confusion and call on the European Parliament to adopt the tighter finning regulation proposed by the European Commission.

We’re nearly there but unfortunately today's vote does not yet close loopholes. We're moving our battle to protect European sharks from finning to Plenary where the Fisheries Committee report will need to be aproved or rejected before it becomes law.

Please keep supporting us as we urge the European Parliament to clearly endorse a strict EU policy in the next coming months.

Photo: European Parliament, Brussels