Shark Fin Finale in Brussels

Crucial Vote on Finning Regulation this Wednesday in European Parliament

After six years of work, the Shark Alliance is sharply focused on the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) that serve on the European Parliament Fisheries Committee as they meet in Brussels to vote on the European Commission’s proposal to close major loopholes in the EU ban on shark finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea).  The Committee Rapporteur, backed by industry, is still aggressively pushing amendments that would gut the Commission’s sound proposal and make a mockery of the process by widening rather than closing glaring loopholes in the EU finning regulation.

The Commission has proposed ending special permits that allow fishermen to cut off shark fins at sea and land them separately from the bodies, and instead requiring that all sharks are landed with their fins still (naturally) attached.  Portugal and Spain are the only EU Member States still issuing these special permits, under which fishermen are held only to a fin to carcass weight ratio limit that is complicated and difficult to enforce. Portuguese MEP and Committee Rapporteur, Maria do Céu Patrão Neves, has been unrelenting in her tactics to delay Parliament action and stymie the proposed beneficial changes.  Ms. Patrão Neves, with the support of MEP Carmen Fraga of Spain, offers poorly founded arguments of Portuguese and Spanish long-distance freezer vessels, which make up the EU’s largest shark fishing fleet. With little supporting documentation, they predict economic hardship and call instead for not only continued exceptions, but also an increase to an even more lenient fin to carcass ratio of 14% (three times those used in countries still relying on ratios for enforcement).

Wednesday’s vote promises to be very close.  The Shark Alliance applauds, among others, Fisheries Committee MEPs Raül Romeva i Rueda (Spain, from the Green group), Kriton Arsenis (Greece, Socialists and Democrats), Chris Davies (UK, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), Julie Girling (UK, European Conservatives and Reformists) for adeptly and consistently arguing the vast benefits of keeping shark fins attached.  We continue to urge Fisheries Committee members from Germany, France, Italy, and Poland (EU Member States where fishermen are already required to land sharks with fins attached) to reject Ms. Patrão Neves’ troubling amendments and instead vote in support the Commission’s proposal.

After six years of commitments and debate, it’s high time to take the EU finning ban from lagging to leading with a ban on on-board shark fin removal, no exceptions.

You can help by following @sharkalliance on twitter and re-tweeting messages that urge MEPs to vote for "fins attached."

Although the outcome from the Fisheries Committee vote will send a powerful signal, the full Parliament will consider this report, as well as a clear message of support for the Commission from the Environment Committee, and vote on a final response in a plenary session within the next few months.