Was in Brussels Monday 21 Nov 2011 to see the European Commission release their proposal to strengthen the EU Finning Ban. The Fisheries Commissioner, Mrs Damanaki even came outside to do a photocall with myself and fellow representatives from the Shark Alliance. Project AWARE is a steering group member of the Shark Alliance, and together we've been making the push for an improved finning ban, better protection for the most vulnerable shark species and shark fishing limits based on scientific advise and a precautionary approach (as there is so little data to go on).
The Community Plan of Action for sharks was developed in 2009, after years of lobbying, and now the Commission has released its proposal to improve the existing EU finning ban. They propose to remove the derogation from the ban. This derogation is essentially an exemption, which allows Member States to issue Special Fishing Permits to accommodate at sea processing, and in particular for the longline freezer vessels. This allows fins and carcasses to be separated on board, and then delivered to separate ports, as the shark components are destined for different markets. "Enforcement" is based on a complex fin to carcass ratio based on weight to ensure that finning has not taken place, (finning being the removal and retention of fins, and the dumping of the bodies over board). The value of fins in today's market provides an economic incentive for those so inclined. The derogation makes the finning ban essentially unenforceable.
Spain issues most of its longline fleet with these special permits, Portugal also issues them; the UK and Germany recently stopped this practise. Spain currently supplies a significant proportion of the Asian fin market.
So in the near future, the European Parliament and Council of Ministers must review the proposal and vote to adopt it. Let's hope its a quick and successful process.