The European fishing sector has welcomed the stance taken by the European Commission with a campaign intended to end the international trade in shark parts with its Stop Finning — Stop the Trade initiative.
The Commission will also launch an impact assessment by the end of the year to measure the effectiveness and contribution of EU rules against finning as it aims to better enforce the EU’s already strong traceability measures and to improve data relating to imports and exports of shark products.
Europêche, representing the European fishing industry, as consistently condemned the practice of finning being carried out anywhere in the world, and stresses that EU fleet has never practiced finning – as evidenced by the fact that no EU fishing vessel has been sanctioned for this practice.
‘In the European market, our consumers value, trade and eat the sharks’ meat. In fact, most of the revenue for the fleet comes from the selling of the meat and not the fins. Nothing is wasted,’ said Europêche president Javier Garat.
Europêche’s position is that the current framework in Europe guarantees that all shark catches are legal and sustainable.
‘Although even if the policy is functioning well, there is always room for improvement and for that reason the sector welcomes the decision to assess the situation in depth before taking any legislative measure,’ he added.
According to Europêche, to guarantee the sustainable management of sharks, their fisheries are meticulously regulated by the EU and by UN bodies across all oceans. In international waters, blue shark caches represent more than 95% of the total shark landings.
The latest scientific information shows that the population of this species is abundant and healthy in all oceans. Their fins are easily distinguishable, even separated from the body, due to its characteristic metallic blue coloration, the lack of spines at the base, and other factors. Therefore, fishery inspectors, and also traders, can easily make a visual identification.
Since 2013, the EU has required all sharks to be brought to port with their fins naturally attached. This rule must be respected by all EU fishing vessels operating across the world, at which time the EU closed any loopholes in the its system. In addition, once landed, the IUU policy requires national authorities to issue a catch certificate that accompanies the body of the shark and the fins up until the point that they reach the consumer. Furthermore, the widely ratified FAO Agreement on Port State Measures requires the verification and inspection of fishing vessels entering ports to ensure that they comply with the Law.
‘Our fishers have changed the way they operate to ensure the full traceability of shark fins. This has not been easy, and rather costly. We are certain that the new trade rules recently adopted by the international community will require further bureaucratic and economic efforts from the administrations and the sector,’ Javier Garat said.
‘The Commission is therefore right in carrying out a fitness and data check before proposing new measures. Banning a perfectly legal and sustainable economic activity in Europe, would only cause financial losses to our companies and would deteriorate the situation in Asian markets.’
He added that since 2019, the sector has been developing a fisheries improvement programme with a focus on swordfish and blue shark, which he sees demonstrates a clear commitment from the sector to improve science, mitigation techniques and increase fisheries observers on board with ultimate goal to obtain a MSC certification.