MSC urged to raise the bar on shark-finning

Published on
February 17, 2021

A new report by a cadre of scientists and members of environmental NGOs is calling on the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to take further action to combat the practice of shark-finning.

The report, which analyzed the MSC’s policies relating to shark-finning, asserts that the organization should adopt a “fins naturally attached” (FNA) policy in order to curtail – and hopefully eliminate – shark-finning. The council is failing its zero-tolerance policy on shark-finning, a press release from the organizations behind the report said. 

“Shark-finning is a practice which, by its nature, takes place under the radar. The incidences we are aware of may be just the tip of the iceberg,” Sharkproject International Project Leader Iris Ziegler said. “It is absolutely crucial that fisheries require fins naturally attached. This is the only effective means of eliminating shark-finning as it closes loopholes and provides the strongest possible foundation for detecting incidences and removing bad actors from fisheries: if monitoring detects fins on board, it is immediately clear that a breach has taken place and sanctions can be imposed.”

A FNA policy rules that any shark fins found on board a vessel unattached from a shark are automatically considered evidence of engaging in illegal shark-finning. The authors of the report said that there is concern that the MSC has failed to implement a FNA policy for all certified fisheries, leaving gaps in its zero-tolerance policy.

“Fins naturally attached is no longer merely ‘best practice’ but increasingly a bare minimum expectation for sustainable fisheries management,” Animal Welfare Institute Marine Program Director Susan Millward said in a release.  “It is truly shocking that instead of taking the lead and driving global action against shark finning, the Marine Stewardship Council instead lags more than a decade behind the cutting-edge. MSC may claim to have ‘zero tolerance’ towards shark-finning but this rhetoric is not yet matched by its requirements.”

As the MSC undergoes a five-year standards review, the authors of the report urge that the MSC must adopt stricter rules regarding shark-finning. That includes adopting a policy where evidence of any shark-finning in aa fishery is automatic grounds for it to be exclude from MSC certification, requiring that fisheries interacting with sharks have a FNA policy with no exemptions, and have objective criteria for the risk of shark-finning that coincides with proper monitoring and surveillance.

“It is time for the MSC to listen to stakeholders and seize the opportunity of the fisheries standard review to raise the bar by requiring fins naturally attached as a prerequisite for certification – with no exemptions,” Shark Guardian Campaign Manager Katie Woodroffe said. “In the face of mass extinction, we need to be doing everything in our power to stamp out the horrific practice of shark finning.”

The MSC has promised to end the verification of any fishery engaged in “compartmentalization” by 2023, which includes strengthened penalties for companies or fisheries engaged in shark finning. The MSC also announced in 2020 that shark-finning would be on the list of topics it plans to cover in its fisheries standard review process.  

Photo courtesy of Lano Lan/Shutterstock

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