Conservation groups are celebrating last week’s European Parliament vote to close loopholes in the European Union ban on shark finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea), the culmination of six years of campaigning and debate.
Members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the European Commission’s proposal to impose the best practice for finning ban enforcement: a prohibition on removing shark fins at sea. The measure faced formidable opposition from representatives of Spain and Portugal, Europe’s leaders in catch of oceanic sharks.
The EU banned finning in 2003, but the associated regulation includes loopholes that allow shark fins to be removed on board and landed separately from shark bodies, which hampers enforcement.
“We owe so much of our success to the tens of thousands of divers across Europe and beyond who voiced their concern for sharks,” said Suzanne Pleydell, Director for Project AWARE Foundation in Europe. “By demonstrating the economic benefits of sound shark stewardship, divers brought new EU Member States to the debate to support a stronger finning policy that reflects the values of the entire European Union, not just its shark fishing powers.”
Parliament’s final report now goes to the EU Council of Ministers and Commission as part of the process to finalize the regulation. Conservation groups stressed that finning bans alone are insufficient to save sharks.
The groups are turning their sights to the next big battleground for sharks: the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) whose Parties meet in March to consider proposals to list commercially valuable, threatened shark species, including porbeagles, hammerheads, and oceanic whitetips. Proponents for listing include the EU and U.S.
Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, and Project AWARE are working as part of a new coalition with Wildlife Conservation Society, Humane Society International, and the German Elasmobranch Society to secure CITES protections for sharks and rays.
Thank you to all PADI Members and Dive Centres who support Project AWARE. Please look out for more alerts from Project AWARE on how you can get involved.