Sir: Following recent reports on shark finning (31 August), I would like to make clear I deplore this practice and strongly welcomed EU measures to stop the practice of slicing off fins at sea and discarding the rest of the body, which enables fishing vessels to slaughter large numbers of sharks on the open ocean.
It is deeply unfortunate this barbaric practice is not met with the same kind of global revulsion as, for example, whaling, partly due to the shark's predatory image. This must be addressed as sharks play a vital role in our marine ecosystem.
Regrettably, the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament voted to relax the rules on shark finning this week. However, the plenary vote has yet to be held and as Labour's European Fisheries spokesperson I am recommending support for all those amendments that restrain this brutal and unnecessary practice and will vote against the report should these amendments fall. I urge other MEP colleagues to do likewise.
CATHERINE STIHLER MEP, DUNFERMLINE, FIFE.
Sir: Once again Spanish politicians are putting the profits of their fishermen ahead of marine conservation efforts. Around a third of European species are under threat from excessive finning. Unfortunately, films like Jaws have created a stigma surrounding sharks that often prevents them gaining the attention they deserve. They are a vital component of maintaining a balanced ecosystem in our oceans.
The current rules that are intended to protect shark species are wholly inadequate and can easily be evaded. Unfortunately, rather than tightening them, Spanish MEPs are engaged in an effort to relax the rules so that more shark carcasses can be thrown back after their fins are removed. British Conservative MEPs will be tabling amendments to oppose any relaxation to the regulations and we urge the British Government to oppose them too.
We will be urging the EU to adopt the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) system in the shark fishery. This would allow fishermen to remove the highest quantity of sharks without weakening the reproductive potential of the species being fished. The EU signed up to MSY at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and it is high time we applied this system to the shark fishery.
STRUAN STEVENSON MEP
CONSERVATIVE FISHERIES SPOKESMAN
NEIL PARISH MEP
CONSERVATIVE DEPUTY FISHERIES SPOKESMAN, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BRUSSELS