MEPs vote to close loopholes that allowed continued cruel practice of ‘shark finning’ - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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MEPs vote to close loopholes that allowed continued cruel practice of ‘shark finning’

Saturday, 24 November 2012
MEPs have voted to close loopholes that allowed some EU fishing vessels to continue the practice of "shark finning". Although the EU banned removing shark fins at sea and discarding the body, special permits allowed finning to continue legally. The resolution was adopted with 566 votes in favour, 47 against and 16 abstentions.

Under Article 4.5 of the present regulation (1185/2003 of 26 June 2003 on the removal of fins of sharks on board vessels), member states are able to issue the permits to exempt fishing vessels from the finning at sea ban provided that the weight of fins kept from the catch does not exceed 5% of the live weight of the shark catch. However, conservation groups noted that the fins of some shark species did not typically represent 5% of the live weight of a shark, creating a loophole that meant finning could take place unnoticed.

Globally, sharks are captured in targeted fisheries for their meat, fins, liver and oil. However, it is the animals' fins that are prized as these command high prices. For example, shark fins have been used as food in China for centuries with reports of their use dating from as early as the Ming Dynasty between 1368-1644.

The European Union’s global catch of sharks ranks second only to Indonesia, yet the European Commission has already committed itself to adopt the necessary measures to conserve shark species and to minimise waste and discards from shark catches under the EU Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.

The decision of MEPs was welcomed by Conservative MEP Julie Girling who has been campaigning hard for this loophole to be closed. In a debate preceding the vote last week in Strasbourg she said: “it is imperative that we use this opportunity to close the remaining loopholes in this regulation and ensure that the cruel and wasteful practice of finning is completely eradicated. Ensuring that all sharks caught in EU waters by EU vessels are landed with their fins naturally attached is by far the simplest way to ensure this enforcement.

In the UK, we have already taken steps to ensure that the wasteful practice of shark finning at sea cannot take place on UK-registered vessels, and we have been joined by many other countries around the world. It is time the EU enshrined this, for all vessels under EU flags,she said. “‘No derogations’ is the best way to ensure a complete end to this wasteful practice. ‘Fins naturally attached’ improves and simplifies enforcement and compliance-monitoring and reduces the risk of the regulation being circumvented.

I have heard no robust, convincing evidence that there is any reason to do anything other than vote in that direction.

The matter will now be considered by the 27 European Union fisheries ministers.

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