Shark Conservation Gets a Boost

Contact: Mike Walker, +32 (0) 476 622575


Brussels, Belgium - 11/21/2011 - The Shark Alliance welcomed the long-awaited proposal today from the European Commission for closing 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.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), every year millions of sharks are finned worldwide. The current EU regulation, adopted in 2003, is too lenient to ensure that finning is not continuing undetected and unpunished. 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. Marine conservationists and scientists recommended this policy as the most reliable means of enforcing a finning ban.

“The Commission’s proposal is a positive step toward the much-needed protection of sharks,” said Sandrine Polti, shark policy adviser to the Pew Environment Group and the Shark Alliance. “The responsibility now lies with the Fisheries Ministers and members of the European Parliament for all 27 EU Member States, who must agree to this proposal as the only reliable way of ensuring that sharks are not finned.”

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.

The Commission has proposed ending special fishing permits, still granted by some Member States, that allow fishermen to remove shark fins at sea and bring bodies and fins to port separately. Spain has issued the largest number of these permits, enough to cover its entire longline fleet. The country’s fishing industry and government are expected to continue to lead the opposition to proposed improvements in the finning ban.

Last month, as part of the fifth annual “European Shark Week,” tens of thousands of concerned citizens across Europe called on EU Fisheries Ministers to help close loopholes in the finning ban and to fulfill the commitments of the EU Plan of Action for sharks.

The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 100 conservation, scientific, and recreational organisations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving shark conservation policies. The Shark Alliance was initiated and is coordinated by the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernment organisation that is working to end overfishing in the world's oceans. Every October, members of the Shark Alliance in Europe conduct a week of public activities to promote shark appreciation and to call for conservation measures. For details of this year’s European Shark Week, please go to www.europeansharkweek.org.

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