On Monday 21st November 2011, Project AWARE together with other Shark Alliance member groups enthusiastically welcomed the long-awaited proposal from the European Commission to close the loopholes in the European Union’s ban on shark finning, the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea.
The proposal if adopted by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers would ensure that all sharks taken by EU vessels or in EU waters are landed with their fins still naturally attached to their bodies.
Currently, special fishing permits, still granted by some Member States, allow fishermen to remove shark fins at sea, and then to land fins and bodies at separate ports. Spain has issued the largest numbers of these covering most of their longline fleet. The country’s fishing industry and government are expected to continue to lead the opposition to proposed improvements in the finning ban.
Project AWARE, other Marine conservation organisations, and international experts have been recommending a “fins naturally attached “ policy as the most reliable means of enforcing a finning ban. This approach not only simplifies and strengthens the enforcement but also facilitates collection of data on shark catches – information critical to improving our knowledge about the status of shark populations.
Last month, as part of Project AWARE Big Shark Shout Out and European Shark Week tens of thousands of divers, shark enthusiasts, and concerned citizens not only in Europe but across the world called on EU Fisheries Ministers to help close loopholes in the finning ban and to fulfill the commitments of the 2009 EU Plan of Action for sharks. Our collective voice is being heard and years of work to protect sharks are starting to pay off.
"The Commission's support of a strengthened EU finning Ban is a fantastic milestone and the result of years of sustained pressure” commented Suzanne Pleydell, Project AWARE Foundation Director who was in Brussels, Belgium last Monday. "Now the European Council – all 27 EU Member States – and the European Parliament must agree to this proposal.”
Shark fins are the key ingredient in a traditional and expensive Asian soup. The EU, particularly Spain, is one of the world’s largest suppliers of shark fins to Asia.
Project AWARE and divers around the world will continue to keep the pressure on and build on the momentum for shark conservation in 2012 and beyond.