The fight against shark finning: Progress and pitfalls

Published on
April 19, 2016

A report recently adopted by the European Commission finds that infractions against the European Union’s sharking finning regulation, established in 2003 and amended in 2013, have been generally minor since stricter policies came into play.

European Union Member States said few cases of shark finning have occurred in their jurisdictions, leading the report to conclude that there is no systemic shark finning taking place in E.U. waters by E.U. vessels. A more rigid “fins naturally attached” policy, which was ironed out in 2013, prohibits all E.U. vessels and all vessels fishing in E.U. waters from removing sharks’ fins on board prior to landing the fish, and has helped in curbing shark finning, the European Commission said. An additional amendment revoking the possibility for member states to issue special permits for the on-board processing of sharks has also helped, allowing better enforcement of the finning ban.

The E.U. regulation stipulates that member states must submit annual reports on their implementation of the amended regulation. These reports must include the number of landings of sharks by the given country’s fleets; the total landings by species and by port; the number, date and place of the inspections carried out; and the number and nature of cases of non-compliance detected.

Fourteen coastal member states (out of 23 total) have submitted full reports regarding shark finning in their regions in both 2013 and 2014, including countries that have issued special permits for the on-board processing of sharks in the past, said the European Commission. The commission plans to continue to monitor the progress of member states in relation to shark finning regulation enforcement, the organization said.

The European Commission’s report runs in conjunction with the culmination of a year-long Greenpeace East Asia investigation into Taiwan’s water tuna fisheries, which the NGO says are given to practices of labor and human rights abuses as well as illegal shark finning. An E.U. yellow card warning for Taiwan is nearing its expiration date – the nation had six months to make adjustments to its fishing practices after being given the yellow card on 1 October, 2015.

“The exposure by Greenpeace of blatant acts of illegal fishing and shark finning, coupled with the [Taiwan Fishing Authority’s] reluctance to react meaningfully, highlights an industry out of control,” said Greenpeace, in its own report.

“The Greenpeace investigation identified at least 16 illegal shark finning cases in a three-month period, approximately five cases per month in one port. The Coast Guard and the F.A. identified a maximum of 18 cases across Taiwan over a period of a year, an average of one-and-a-half cases per month. Unfortunately, these figures suggest that the low number of Taiwanese vessels caught illegally shark finning is indicative of lackluster enforcement, rather than reduced levels of shark finning,” the NGO said in the report.

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