MEPS VOTED TODAY to remove exceptions to the EU ban on shark finning – a practice which involves cutting off fins and dumping the carcasses at sea.
These exceptions required fishermen to keep carcases on board, but they made the ban difficult to enforce, as they allowed boats to land fins and bodies at different ports, making it difficult to match fin and carcass counts.
The ban, in place since 2003, prohibited removing shark fins on board vessels. Today’s vote removes the exceptions, which took the form of special permits to remove fins at sea.
From now on sharks must be landed with their fins “naturally attached”. The resolution was adopted with 566 votes in favour, 47 against and 16 abstentions.
The special permits suspended the ban so as to allow finning on those vessels “where a capacity to use all parts of sharks has been demonstrated”. However, after processing on board, fins and carcasses could be landed in different ports, making it difficult to match fin and carcass counts and hence to detect dumping.
Portugese MEP Maria do Céu Patrão Neves of the European People’s Party sought to retain the exceptions, whilst narrowing their scope, so as to allow only freezer-fishing vessels to fin sharks at sea and oblige them to land the fins and processed sharks’ bodies in the same port.
Commenting after the vote today, Socialist MEP Paul Murphy told TheJournal.ie that “the barbaric practice of finning has no place in modern fishing”.
“It involves removing the fins of sharks at sea and then throwing the rest of the shark back into the sea while the shark is still alive, resulting in a cruel and painful death,” he said.
“It is vital that the inhumane practice is ended and that fishing of sharks is regulated internationally to ensure the humane treatment of sharks and the protection of livelihoods and living standards for small fishermen and coastal communities worldwide,” he added.
Many shark species are vulnerable to overexploitation and it is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed for their fins annually.
In recent years, some shark stocks have been overfished and jeopardised due to a dramatic increase in demand for shark products, particularly fins. To date, the largest numbers of special permits have been issued by Spain and Portugal.