Sunday

26th Jan 2020

EU bans practice of chopping off shark fins

  • Fins still attached (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Commission on Monday (21 November) announced a full ban on "shark finning" - the practice in which fishermen cut off the dorsal fin of a shark and throw it back into the water, often while it is still alive.

"We want to eradicate the horrendous practice of shark finning and protect sharks better," said EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki in a statement.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Shark fin is a prized ingredient for soup in China and growth in the country's middle-class has sent global demand soaring.

Accurate estimates are difficult to come by. The UN says 10 million sharks a year - almost 30,000 a day - are currently being finned. But conservationists say the true figure is much higher.

Meanwhile, several shark species are in danger of extinction.

"The EU's new rule is a big step forward for shark fishery management as it will make it easier to monitor and regulate some of the world's largest shark fisheries," says Shelley Clarke, a fish scientist based in Japan and a former associate researcher at Imperial College in London.

EU waters, in particular those of Spain and Portugal, are among the world's largest suppliers of shark fin to the Asian markets.

The new rule, which will still have to be approved by the European parliament and national ministers in the course of the coming year, declares: "All vessels fishing in EU waters and all EU vessels fishing anywhere in the world will have to land sharks with the fins still attached."

The idea is that fishermen will not want to lug around low-value shark carcasses just to fin them when they get to shore and will switch to catching different fish.

The practice of finning as such has been banned since 2003, but "a huge loophole" in the current EU regulation, according to Sandrine Polti of the Shark Alliance, a coalition of global shark-conservation groups, allowed member states to process sharks on board and take shark fins and bodies to separate ports.

"It is one of the weakest regulations in the world," she said.

The fishing industry, meanwhile, is less happy.

"We are very surprised and disappointed," said Guy Vernaeve of Europeche, the EU association of fishing enterprises. "We are against the practice of finning when it concerns tossing the body back into sea. But we did ask to be able to separate the fins from the body onboard and take them to separate ports, because they end up in different commercial circuits. The fins go to Asia, the meat goes to Europe."

The article originally said the regulation would be applicable immediately. This was corrected on Tuesday (22 November) to say that parliament and member states have to agree the new law first.

Opinion

EU's new fisheries policy: throwing a lifeline to the oceans.

European consumers eat nearly twice the fish that our oceans can provide, our over-subsidized fleet is too big, too powerful and not selective enough, writes Xavier Pastor ahead of the talks to reform the Common Fisheries Policy.

Timmermans urges EU governments to tax carbon

The EU commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said on Thursday that member states have a responsibility to implement taxes on carbon to show that emissions have a cost.

Europeans ready to 'green' their lifestyles, study finds

Two-thirds of people in Europe, the US and China think their individual behaviour can help tackle climate change - but Europeans and Chinese are more willing to change their living standards to limit global warming than Americans.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan premier refuses to step down, despite ruling
  2. UK set to support new fossil fuel projects in Africa
  3. Leftists MEPs travel to visit jailed Catalan MEP
  4. Bulgaria may expel Russian diplomats over 'espionage'
  5. EU, China, others agree on WTO body to settle disputes
  6. EU Commission makes move against Poland on judges law
  7. Soros pledges $1bn for liberal universities
  8. Merkel: Germany unprepared for 2015 refugee crisis

Europeans ready to 'green' their lifestyles, study finds

Two-thirds of people in Europe, the US and China think their individual behaviour can help tackle climate change - but Europeans and Chinese are more willing to change their living standards to limit global warming than Americans.

Feature

Dutch case opens new era for climate-change litigation

Legal action related to climate change is set to grow considerably in the next few years - especially after a largely-overlooked ruling over Christmas by a Dutch court forced the government to reduce its emission by 25 percent by 2020.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. AI must have human oversight, MEPs recommend
  2. Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal
  3. Why do EU arms end up in Libya despite UN ban?
  4. Brexit deal to be signed, as sides poised for tough talks
  5. Timmermans urges EU governments to tax carbon
  6. Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote
  7. China spy suspect had EU permission to work as lobbyist
  8. EU to unveil 5G 'toolbox' to tackle security threats

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us