On Anniversary of EU Shark Plan, shark finning loopholes remain

On Anniversary of EU Shark Plan, shark finning loopholes remain

As fisheries managers and fishing industry representatives from all over the tour the annual Brussels Seafood Show, the Shark Alliance is calling on the European Commission to finally progress toward a commitment made more than a year ago to close loopholes in the EU regulation banning shark “finning” – cutting off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea.

In February 2009, the European Commission released an Action Plan for improving EU shark policies, including the finning ban. At the time, the EU Fisheries Commissioner pledged that the Plan would result in “stronger control measures to ensure that the strict terms of the finning ban are properly respected.”

One year ago, in April 2009, the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers officially endorsed the Commission’s Shark Plan and encouraged the Commission to “pay special attention to the issues of finning” and “give priority to proposing as quickly as possible” amendments to the EU finning regulation.

The Commission’s Directorate-General for Marine Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare) recently indicated its intention to release a public consultation document on changes to the finning regulation within the coming months, but no precise timetable has been issued.  Moreover, options under consideration for revising the finning regulation include the status quo and problematic methods for matching severed shark fins to corresponding bodies that were not mentioned in the Shark Plan.   Also under consideration is a complete prohibition on removal of shark fins at sea; this option, strongly supported by the Shark Alliance, is by far the most effective strategy for preventing finning and would also facilitate better data on shark catches.

The Shark Alliance is pressing DG Mare to prioritize the task of strengthening the EU shark finning ban, as requested by many EU Member States, scores of NGOs and tens of thousands of EU citizens.