Growth in shark fin trade could lead to species extinction


Shark fishing in Europe is helping to fuel a global trade in valuable shark fins that is driving many species to the brink of extinction, a study has found.

European regulations designed to protect sharks are all but useless and are failing to halt the growth of illegal finning - when shark fins are removed and the carcass is thrown overboard.

The Shark Alliance, a collection of international non-governmental organisations, said the EU's ban on finning is full of loopholes that are being exploited by some fishing nations.

There are even proposals from some countries, notably Spain, to relax the rules on shark finning still further, making it more likely that some species will be fished to extinction.

Sonja Fordham, author of the Shark Alliance report, said the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee is pushing for weaker restrictions on shark finning, which is growing because of the demand in Asia for shark fin soup.

The committee has voted this week to allow fishing vessels in Europe to land more shark fins - relative to carcass weight - than in the past which many see as a relaxation of the rules.

"With this week's vote, they have essentially recommended a policy for finning at least two out of every three sharks landed, thereby betraying the intent of the EU's ban on finning and the will of the public," Ms Fordham said.

Shark finning is driven by the disparity between the high-value fins, which can be sold to restaurants for many hundreds of dollars, and the rest of the carcass.

The United States and other countries have set a quota on fins based on a ratio of fin weight to the dressed weight of the carcasses landed on shore.

The measures were designed to stop the practice of slicing off fins at sea and discarding the rest of the body, which enables fishing vessels to slaughter large numbers of sharks on the open ocean. Europe adopted the same ratio but this time to whole weight of the carcass, which allowed more fins to be legally landed. The Fisheries Committee has now voted to increase the ratio even further - making finning at sea easier.

"The lucrative, global market for shark fin, used for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup, is estimated to be increasing by 5 per cent per year," says the Shark Alliance report. Over the past decade, European participation in the Hong Kong fin market, led by Spain, has grown from negligible levels to nearly a third of total declared imports, the report says.

Shark species that are important for the fin market include the hammerhead, blue, mako, basking and dogfish sharks. A third of European species are threatened.

"There are sharks in European waters and many of them are in serious decline and yet the EU is playing a role in the overall crisis," Ms Fordham said.

Shark finning in European waters has grown from negligible levels to about a quarter of global demand, and yet many of the species are too slow growing to be replaced. Spain leads the list in shark-finning nations, but Britain, France, Portugal and Italy also contribute to the trade, the report found.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas