The European Union (EU) has unfinished business with sharks! In a petition launched today, European citizens are calling on EU fisheries ministers to make the push and protect sharks from overexploitation and to urgently strengthen the EU regulation that bans the wasteful practice of ‘finning’ (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea).
For five years, the Shark Alliance, EU fisheries and environment officials, and members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have been discussing the need to better protect sharks.
After a sustained advocacy campaign from the Shark Alliance, two years ago EU Fisheries Ministers endorsed a sound EU shark Plan of Action that led to significant improvement in the conservation of these exceptionally vulnerable species. Yet, there is unfinished business.
Targeted EU shark fisheries continue without limits, many endangered species remain unprotected, and the EU finning ban still has huge loopholes that make it possible to fin sharks without detection or punishment. However, there is opportunity for change with the release of the European Commission’s proposal for a revised finning regulation expected this autumn.
“Public pressure across Europe has made a real and positive difference in shark conservation over the past five years, but we need another push to ensure loopholes in the finning ban are finally closed and ministers live up to the commitments of the EU shark Plan of Action”, said Martin Clark, coordinator of the Shark Alliance.
Shark Alliance member groups, aquariums and other supporters will gather signatures for a petition urging policy makers to resist industry pressure and take the necessary steps towards sustainable shark fishing in Europe, by demanding:
“Sharks, as top predators, play an essential role for the good health of our oceans. We call on European citizens to make their voices heard by signing the petition and calling for much needed protection of sharks from overexploitation and finning” said Irene Kigma, coordinator of European Shark Week.
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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 non-government organisation that is working to end overfishing in the world's oceans.
Every October, members of the Shark Alliance in Europe run a week of activities for supporters and other shark enthusiasts to find out more about sharks and shark conservation and add their voices to those demanding that policy makers secure the future health of shark populations. For details of this year’s European Shark Week please go to www.europeansharkweek.org
The Council of Fisheries Ministers endorsed the EU Community Plan of Action (CPOA) for sharks in April 2009. The Plan aims to improve information about shark fisheries, set science-based fishing limits, end shark overfishing, pay special attention to threatened shark species, and close loopholes in the EU ban on shark finning and includes actions at national, EU and international levels.
Although the current EU finning regulation prohibits the removal of shark fins at sea, a derogation allows EU Member States to provide fishermen with special permits to ‘process’ sharks and, thereby, remove fins on board vessels. Only Spain and Portugal currently issue them, and they do so for most of their shark fishing vessels.
In the autumn of 2011, the Commission intends to release a formal proposal for a revised regulation for the EU finning ban. Long recommended by scientists, enforcement officials, and conservationists, the Shark Alliance supports a straight-forward policy requiring all sharks to be landed with their fins naturally attached with no exceptions as by far the best method for ensuring an end to shark finning.