The Shark Alliance is putting its support behind an option to amend the EU ban on shark finning that would require that fins remain naturally attached to shark bodies until fishing vessels return to port. This option was included in a public consultation document released today by the European Commission, nearly two years after the Commission pledged to strengthen the ban on finning—the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark's fins and discarding the body at sea.
Loopholes in the current EU regulation, adopted in 2003, make it possible for fishermen to fin an estimated two of three sharks without detection or punishment. The Commission is soliciting input on three options for amending the associated regulation, including two that could substantially strengthen the current regulation. .
“For too long, the EU has left the door open to shark finning,” said Uta Bellion, director of the Pew Environment Group's European Marine Programme and European coordinator of the Shark Alliance. “This consultation could result in a substantial policy improvement, particularly if the one truly reliable option for preventing finning—a complete prohibition on the removal of shark fins at sea—is adopted.”
Most scientists agree that requiring sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached to their bodies is by far the best method for implementing finning bans. Not only will this policy result in vastly improved enforcement, but it will also allow for better species-specific catch data collection, which is vital for the assessment and management of shark populations.
The Shark Alliance has long highlighted the inadequacies of the EU finning ban and will participate fully in the Commission's public consultation, which runs through until 21 February 2011. The Commission intends to send a formal proposal for a revised regulation to the EU Council and Parliament next year.