Shark Alliance

The E.U. Shark Journey

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Sharks have roamed our oceans since before the time of dinosaurs.

But despite their astonishing biology, the need to protect this pivotal species is more critical than ever.

Sharks Under Threat

Europe is home to 130 species of sharks, skates and rays and roughly one-third are classified as Threatened under the IUCN Red List.

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Another 20% are at risk of becoming threatened in the near future.

What’s the Problem?

Despite the threats facing sharks, many European shark fishing operations remain unregulated. One of the major threats is finning.

Shark ‘finning’ is the practice of cutting off a shark’s fins and discarding the rest of the carcass back into the sea.

Despite a ban on finning in the EU in 2003, loopholes make it one of the weakest in the world.

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What’s the Solution?

The best way to prevent finning is to make sure that sharks are always landed with their fins still naturally attached to their body. To put this into practice, governments needed a push.

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In 2006, The Shark Alliance was formed with the aim of securing an EU Plan of Action for Sharks and closing loopholes in the EU shark finning ban.

And in the same year the European Parliament called for a stronger EU shark finning ban.

The 2009 EU Shark Action Plan set the stage for sweeping improvements in shark policies starting with closing the loopholes in the EU ban on finning.

Later that year, the EU Fisheries Council endorsed the EU Shark Action Plan and highlighted urgent need for a stronger finning ban.

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Four MEPs launched an initiative calling on the Commission to propose an end to at-sea removal of shark fins. Supported by 423 MEPs, it was adopted as a Resolution of Parliament in December 2010.

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The Commission consulted on options for change in late 2010, receiving overwhelming support for this approach, and, in November 2011, proposed amending the regulation to require that all sharks be landed with their ‘fins naturally attached’.

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Support to Date

The Commission's proposal received huge support from the public, scientists and MEPS.

In 2011, 165,000 people signed a petition to Make the Push to protect Europe’s sharks.

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Leading fisheries scientist Dr Shelley Clarke spoke about the need to land sharks with their fins naturally attached.

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EU Fisheries Ministers showed their support for the proposal and only Spain and Portugal opposed.

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The European Parliament Environment Committee voted to support the Commission’s proposal.

It’s Working in Practice

Prohibiting at-sea removal of shark fins, and thereby requiring that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached is widely accepted as the best practice for enforcing finning bans and is being used successfully in fisheries around the world.

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2012: Despite overwhelming support, there is still opposition.

MEP Maria do Céu Patrão Neves, from Portugal, one of Europe’s leading shark fishing countries, has used her role as rapporteur to fight for preserving loopholes. With little supporting documentation or specifics, all of her arguments are based on those offered by the Portuguese and Spanish long distance freezer vessels.

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What Happened?

In November, the Shark Alliance welcomed the European Parliament’s vote to close loopholes in the European Union ban on shark finning. After years of debate, 566 Members of the European Parliament voted in favour of a report endorsing the European Commission’s proposal to require that fins be left naturally attached to all sharks that are brought to port.

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Thanks to all the conservationists, scientists, divers, groups, politicians and other shark enthusiasts who supported the campaign to finally close the loopholes in the EU finning ban. You made it happen.

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