Responsible Seafood Advocate

Legislative measures to end shark finning trade to be explored, along with improved data collection and research

A U.S. fisheries agent confiscates illegally harvested shark fins. Photo by NOAA, via Wikimedia Commons.

In response to a European citizens’ initiative, the European Commission is exploring new ways to address the international trade of loose shark fins.

The “Stop finning – Stop the trade” initiative received support from more than one million citizens and was submitted to the Commission in January 2023. It calls for an end to the trade of loose shark fins, as well as extending Regulation (EU) No 605/2013 that bans shark finning to also prohibit the import, export and transit of loose shark fins.

“Sharks play a vital role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems and they are vulnerable to human activities,” wrote the Commission in a press release. “Despite efforts to improve the conservation of sharks in recent years, many populations of sharks are in a critical situation – over one third of shark species are threatened with extinction (i.e. considered critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable). The Commission acknowledges that shark finning is one of the main threats for the conservation of these species.”

In response to the initiative, the Commission will take the following actions:

  • Examine the opportunity of taking a legislative measure to end the trade in loose shark fins;
  • Start preparatory work for an impact assessment on the environmental, social and economic consequences of applying the “fins naturally attached” policy to the placing on the EU market of sharks, whether within the EU or for international trade (imports and exports);
  • Provide more detailed EU’s import and export information to improve statistics on trade in shark products by the end of 2024.

The Commission has committed to better enforce the EU’s traceability measures along the entire value chain: control of fishing at sea, shark products from landing to consumer, consumer information and prevention and redress of illegal trade. It will ensure the collection and reporting of complete and reliable information by fishermen and Member States’ authorities on all these aspects by working together with Member States and Interpol. Lastly, the Commission will step up the EU’s international action, as the trade in shark fins is global.

“The objectives will be to strengthen the effective implementation of conservation and management measures for shark species and advocate for a worldwide ban of shark finning; encourage the reduction of demand for shark fins; and fight against shark fins trafficking,” wrote the Commission.

The Commission will work with EU Member States, within the framework of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), regional fisheries management organizations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and with third countries bilaterally.

Read more here.

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