European Commission launches consultation on changes to EU shark finning rules

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the amendment of the Council Regulation on Shark Finning (Council Regulation (EC) 1185/2003 on the removal of fins of sharks on board vessels).

The current rules date from 2003. Although the removal of shark fins at sea is illegal, the regulation allows special permits to be given to fishermen to remove fins at sea for processing reasons. To prevent the illegal practice of finning (cutting off the valuable fins of sharks and throwing the carcass overboard as waste), there is a requirement to have a 5% fin-to-carcass live weight ratio, without the requirement to land processed carcasses at the same port. However, it is now widely acknowledged  – including by the Commission – to be flawed, leaving room for the discarding of carcasses and making control of the regulation difficult.

Fisheries Ministers, following up from the European Community Plan of Action for Sharks of 2009,  specifically called for a proposal to strengthen the EU ban on shark finning as a priority in Council Conclusions on the issue.

In the consultation document the Commission presents five potential solutions for improving the regulation, ranging from maintaining the status quo, to landing sharks with the fins naturally attached to the carcasses.

The NGO coalition, Shark Alliance, puts it weight firmly behind the option to keep fins naturally attached as “by far the best method for implementing finning bans”.

The consultation will close on 21 February 2011, with a proposal for a regulation expected to be published later in the year.

European Commission consultation web pages

Commission consultation document

Shark Alliance press release

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