Over the last ten years, public awareness about the importance of sharks in the marine ecosystem, their vulnerability and the brutal practice of finning has increased so much that nowadays people are more concerned if they spot a shark fin in a shop than in the open sea.
The European Union put in place a Shark Finning Ban in 2003. Since then many EU fishermen have indeed changed their practices to abide by this ban.
However, it is precisely the current rules, which allow shark fins to be removed on board, that make it impossible to control. The obligation to land sharks with their fins attached, without any derogation, is the only way to ensure quickly, easily and inexpensively that finning does not occur undetected. Therefore, I’m very glad for the overwhelming support that the European Parliament showed yesterday for the Commission’s proposal to close the loopholes and to ensure that the ban on shark finning is implemented.
As with all our proposals, we conducted an extensive public consultation, during which we received more than 5000 replies, including the views of the industry. In addition, numerous meetings and exchanges with the industry took place over the last two years. As with all our proposals, we have thoroughly assessed the impacts of the new rules in terms of operating costs and competitive (dis)advantages. We have found that the new rules would neither result in significant costs nor result in competitive disadvantage for the industry. In fact, some EU fleets (UK, Germany and Lithuania) have already voluntarily decided as of 2009 that their vessels must stop removing fins on board and have never signalled additional costs. Furthermore, the Taiwanese frozen shark fleet is bigger than the EU one and operates according to a fins-attached law. If vessels that benefit from present derogations were to process fins in the same way as the UK, German, Lithuanian, USA, numerous Central American or Taiwanese fleets, they would not be at a competitive disadvantage.
Now, I’m looking forward to a swift agreement between Parliament and Council so that a real ban on shark finning can become reality.