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Commission to stop shark finning

Press release - 15/11/2010

The European Commission wants to eradicate the practice of shark finning completely from EU waters and fishing vessels from the EU wherever they operate in the world. Finning consists of cutting off and keeping the fins of sharks while throwing the shark body overboard to die.

The practice has been banned by EU legislation since 2003, but the current system makes control difficult and compliance hard to ensure. To strengthen the existing legislation, the Commission asks the scientific community, the industry, Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), NGOs and all interested parties to give their views over a twelve-week consultation period starting today. The received input, as well as the latest scientific knowledge from across the world, will feed into a proposal for a new, more effective EU law to stop the practice of shark finning completely to safeguard sharks, many of which are under serious threat.

Shark finning is prohibited by regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) and is illegal almost all over the world. The practice contributes to the excessive mortality and stock depletion of several species of sharks, many of which are already under serious threat. This is why back in 2003 the EU adopted Regulation no 1185/2003, which bans finning and regulates the on-board processing of sharks and which applies to all vessels fishing in EU waters and to all EU vessels, wherever they operate.

But the illegal practice of shark finning is continuing because fins can be worth dozens of times more per kilo than the rest of the shark meat. As on-board storage space is limited, there can be a strong incentive for fishermen to get rid of carcasses and only keep the fins.

Since then, however, it has become clear that under the current system controls cannot be 100% accurate. The fishing sector, NGOs and RFMOs all agree that the legislation should be revised; and last year the Commission committed to such a revision in its Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.

As to the new approach, several potential solutions are envisaged. The consultation document published by the Commission presents the main options that are currently being discussed by experts worldwide. Interested parties (fishermen, scientists, industry representatives, RFMOs, stakeholders and members of the public) will have twelve weeks to express their opinion and select their preferred option. The consultation will close on 21 February 2011.

The results of the public consultation will feed into the process of policy development, as will the recommendations of competent scientific bodies, for the production of a new piece of legislation to come out during the first half of 2011.

Consultation on the amendment of Council Regulation (EC) 1185/2003 on the removal of fins of sharks on board vessels