Analysis

The Shark Alliance at LIDS

Shark Trust Activity Trail © Shark Trust

Shark Alliance member Shark Trust, was present at the London International Dive Show (LIDS) with a well-attended, lively and informative stand. Many visitors expressed their concern for the plight of the world's sharks and signed up to the Shark Trust petition to protest against shark finning.

The Divernet Dive Show at London's ExCel exhibition centre, is one of the UK's largest dive exhibitions attended by thousands of divers, their friends and families.

On Shark Trust's "Activity Trail", young people could train to become a shark scientist by discovering the name of a mystery shark by answering a number of questions at the interactive self-guided learning display.

In addition to gathering new members and raising funds for future conservation efforts through a variety of competition prizes, the Shark Trust collected many signatures to its petition against shark finning.

Finning is the process of cutting off shark fins (often while the shark is still alive) and discarding the body at sea. This hugely wasteful practice—wet fins typically represent  less than 5% of a shark's body weight—occurs worldwide. Europe includes some of the most important shark fishing nations in the world.

Demand for shark fins comes primarily from the market for shark fin soup. This traditional Chinese delicacy is increasingly in demand as, thanks to a booming Chinese economy, more people are able to afford it.

Most sharks grow slowly, mature late and give birth to a few large pups. Consequently, shark populations decline rapidly when targeted by fisheries and recover slowly, if at all.

Few Europeans know that such fancifully-named species as the large-eyed rabbitfish, the velvet-bellied dogfish, the cuckoo ray, the little sleeper shark and the blue pygmy skate exist off their shores. But European waters contain a diverse array of about 70 species of sharks, more than 50 species of skates and rays, and seven species of chimaeras.

According to IUCN Red List criteria, about one-third of European shark and ray populations assessed are currently considered Threatened, with many more at  risk of becoming Threatened in the near future.

Most experts agree that the most effective way to stop shark finning is to require that sharks caught are landed whole, before fins are removed. 

However, fishermen prefer to store shark fins and meat separately, so most finning bans are enforced through a fin to carcass weight ratio limit. 

Although Europe includes some of the world’s most important shark fishing nations, the EU legislation on shark finning is among the weakest in the world, and effectively allows up to two thirds of sharks caught to be finned.

The Shark Alliance is calling on the European Commission and Fisheries and Environment Ministers throughout Europe to work to: 

  • require that shark fins and carcass be landed at the same time and at the same port.
  • decrease the EU fin to carcass ratio to (or below) the international standard of 5 per cent dressed weight, or require that sharks be landed whole.
  • develop and implement a more holistic European plan of action for sharks that includes precautionary limits on catch based on ICES advice, as well as protection for endangered species, reduction of bycatch, recovery plans for depleted species and management plans for others.

Media Contact

Appolonia Benoist

Associate, Communications

+32.2.2742860