Europe Strengthens Shark Finning Ban

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Finning by European fishing fleets has been illegal since 2003, but a legal loophole allows the gruesome practice of shark mutilation to continue.

Largest Exporter of Shark Fins

The expediency of cutting the fins off of sharks for efficient transport before tossing the crippled shark overboard to flail helplessly as it bleeds to death has been condemned by animal rights activists and shark conservationists. Ironically, the cartilaginous shark fins reportedly add no flavor, only texture, to the coveted soup -- for which demand increases as income levels rise in countries where the dish ranks as a delicacy.

Project Aware reports that Europe "is one of the largest exporters of shark fins to Asia." Under current legislation, fishing boats with refrigeration systems apply for special permits allowing them to bring shark fins ashore as long as the finless carcasses land with another ship. Enforcement officials must resort to a complex mathematical formula for comparing the weights of fins with the weights of carcasses to discover violations of the ban on casting maimed sharks overboard.

Loopholes Closed but Threat Remains

The special permits, granted overwhelmingly for fleets in Spain and Portugal, will end under the new regulation, which requires that any sharks caught must be brought to shore intact. The legislation joins other European laws protecting threatened species and fishery quotas intended to ensure sustainable harvesting of key shark species.

But conservationists warn the fight cannot end yet. They seek listing and protection of shark species threatened by overfishing. You can help by signing a petition to give sharks a fighting chance ahead of the March 2013 meeting on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Tags: Animal Welfare | Conservation | European Union | Oceans | Sharks

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