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MADRID, Spain -- An international marine conservation organisation is concerned for the welfare of sharks following the potential support of ‘shark finning’ within the European Union.
The marine conservation organisation Oceana has released a damming report aimed at the European Union (EU) Members of Parliament (Euro MPs) to express its concern that the illegal fishery would support the killing of millions of sharks each year.
A decision will be made on the issue in the European Parliament (EP) Committee on Fisheries on 28 August.
Oceana calls on the EU to strengthen European regulations for shark fisheries management and to close major loopholes within the shark finning regulation to ensure the ban is properly enforced.
Shark’s biological role in the sea
Sharks play key roles as top ocean predators, helping to maintain balance and biodiversity within ocean ecosystems.
Unfortunately, they are increasingly threatened by overfishing, and their low productiveness and late age of maturity make their populations incapable of recovering at the same rate they are exploited.
About one-third of all sharks and related ray species in European waters assessed to date, nearly 40 species in all, are considered “threatened” by extinction according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
“Shark finning is an incredibly wasteful practice that threatens already overexploited shark populations.
“It consists of cutting off shark fins and tossing the dead or dying bodies back into the water, utilizing only two to five per cent of the animal and throwing away sources of protein and potential commercial or medicinal products,” said Xavier Pastor, director of Oceana in Europe.
Finning occurs because the fins, ultimately used in the Asian delicacy of shark fin soup, are often much more highly valued than the remaining body parts – in some cases, prices can exceed €100 per kilo.
The practice has been banned in EU waters and vessels since 2003.
However, a recent EP draft report by a Spanish socialist Euro MP, Rosa Miguélez Ramos, threatens to endorse illegal shark finning in EU waters.
A ratio of five per cent has been adopted by nations and fisheries management bodies worldwide as the proper biological proportion between fin weight and the shark’s body weight.
Theoretically, the amount of fins landed by each vessel should not exceed five per cent of the weight of the gutted/beheaded sharks caught by that vessel.
Even though the average biological proportion of fin to gutted body weight is lower, the five per cent ratio has been confirmed by scientists as an appropriate upper limit for all sharks in mixed shark fisheries, allowing fishermen some flexibility and a margin of error.
The European legislation is currently the weakest in the world, as it applies to the whole weight of the shark and not the dressed (gutted) weight like other regulations, exceeding the science-based limit and allowing a higher percentage of fins to be captured.