5 things you need to know about the proposed European Union shark finning ban, including how you can help

Image from Jessica King, Marine Photobank

All eyes in the shark world are focused on Belgium, where the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee votes Wednesday on one of the most significant conservation policies in years: a stronger EU-wide ban on shark finning via a prohibition on removing sharks at sea, with no more  exceptions. Since some of the details are quite technical, emotions are running high, and a lot of misinformation is spreading, I’ve prepared a quick guide to help our readers understand the proposed policy. For much more detailed updates, follow the Shark Alliance’s blog.

1) The proposed policy would strengthen the current EU finning ban, not ban fins. As has previously been discussed, some of the language surrounding shark conservation policy can be confusing. As a reminder, shark finning is the act of removing fins from a shark at sea and dumping the body overboard. Finning of live sharks is incredibly inhumane (the “finned” shark will bleed to death or drown when dumped overboard), and incredibly wasteful whether the shark is alive or dead (less than 5% of the shark is used). Scientists are almost universally opposed to shark finning because it is often associated with  unsustainable fishing and the practice makes it difficult for managers to know what species of shark the fin came from. The policy that the European Parliament is voting on is an amendment to the current EU  “finning ban”,” which relies on a complicated and lenient fin to carcass ratio for enforcement.  The European Commission has proposed requiring that sharks be landed with fins still attached, which would strengthen enforcement and data collection capabilities. This is not a “fin ban” that would make it illegal to buy, sell, or possess fins.

2) If this proposal passes, it will help sharks. A lot. Requiring that fishermen land sharks naturally attached is an important step in the path to sustainable shark fisheries management. It will help enforcement agents ensure that finning is not taking place and help scientists and managers to keep track of how much of which species are being taken. Since the European Union is the world’s largest supplier of shark fins to the markets in Asia and a powerful force at all international fisheries bodies, an EU-wide switch to more sustainable fishing practices could have an enormous impact.

3) The devil is in the details with conservation policy. A 2003 regulation already banned finning for EU vessels, but it is full of loopholes and the Shark Alliance calls it “among the most lenient in the world”. Specifically, it allows EU members states to issue special permits for their fishermen to remove fins at sea as long as they keep the carcasses (and the total weight of landed fins can’t exceed a certain ratio of the total weight of landed carcasses). Such a measure is called a “Fin to carcass ratio limit”, and they are widely criticized by the scientific and conservation community since the actual ratio of fin weight to body weight varies widely by shark species, shark age, and fin removal practice (which allows some “cheating” by fishermen). The new rule would eliminate these special permits and require that all EU vessels land sharks with fins naturally attached with no exceptions.

4) This is a big step, but just one step on a very long road.The Shark Alliance has been pushing for this since 2006, a process they’ve chronicled with an interactive infographic. If the European Parliament Fisheries Committee passes the proposal, it still has to go before the full Parliament. Even then, there’s still a lot of work to do to protect sharks around the world, including pushing for other countries to stop finning, species-specific protections for particularly threatened species (including but not limited to CITES and fishing bans), requirements that fishermen report the species composition of their catch, and more.

5) The vote is expected to be close, but you can help! The Shark Alliance is asking for the public to show their support by tweeting at Members of Parliament who serve on the Fisheries Committee. This is a quick and easy way for us to demonstrate that there is a lot of public interest in (and support for) the finning ban. Follow the Shark Alliance on twitter and check out their recent updates. You can RT their tweets, but composing your own would be a big help.  Here are some suggestions:

We need your support to prevent shark finning. Vote on September 19 to end fin removal at sea, no exceptions. (109 characters with spaces).
MEPs: we need your support to prevent shark finning. Vote Wednesday to end fin removal at sea, no exceptions. (109 characters with spaces)
MEPs on Fisheries Committee: help prevent shark finning by voting September 19 to end fin removal at sea, no exceptions (120 characters with spaces).
MEPs on PECH Committee: help prevent shark finning by voting September 19 to end fin removal at sea, no exceptions (115 characters with spaces).
Shark fin finale in European Parliament: MEPs must vote Sept 19 to end removal of fins at sea, no exceptions (109 characters with spaces).
Urging PECH MEPs to vote Sept 19 to strengthen EU shark finning ban thru ban on at-sea fin removal, no exceptions! (115 characters with spaces).
Seeking MEPs to help prevent shark finning by voting September 19 to end fin removal at sea, no exceptions! (106 characters with spaces).
Crucial vote on shark finning. Ask Fisheries Committee MEPs to vote Sept 19 for ending at-sea fin removal, no exceptions! (121 characters with spaces).
Fisheries Committee MEPs choose Sept 19 to close loopholes in EU shark finning ban. Ask them to end fin removal at sea. (119 characters with spaces).
 Additionally, here are the twitter handles of all the MEPs on the Fisheries Committee. Contacting any or all will be helpful, but it will be particularly helpful if you contact your country’s representative.
  1. Shark finning is incredibly inhumane – the “finned” shark will bleed to death or drown when dumped overboard – and incredibly wasteful with less than ten percent of the shark’s mass used. Scientists are almost universally opposed to shark finning because it is an extremely unsustainable practice that makes it difficult for managers to know what species of shark the fin came from.

    In the words of the great Albert Schweitzer, “We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”

  2. Please stop and ban shark finnings
    in the country. It is important and necessary to stop this action.
    Human used cruelty and inhumane ways to their life. It is not fair and wrong. They also has right and feeling to their alive.
    Respect our resources. Their population is decline and already endangered species, Please help save their ecosystem now.

  3. I fully support the proposed European Union Shark Finning ban. Requiring that fishermen land sharks whole is an important step in the path to sustainable shark fisheries management. It will help limit the number of sharks taken by fishermen (a whole shark takes up more room in a hold than a set of fins does), and it will help managers to keep track of which species are being harvested. Since the European Union is the world’s largest supplier of shark fins to the markets in Asia, an EU-wide switch to more sustainable fishing practices will have an enormous and rapid impact.

  4. Finning or the destruction of removing the fin from a shark or any other sea creature is deplorable and needs to be stopped. We as humans don’t rule the world, God does. He made sharks for a reason, not for our disposal or to make money from. Please stop this action immediately.

    • Please put a stop to this hideous practice of shark finning. How cruel, how wasteful!! Sometimes I’m ashamed to be human!!

  5. Finning is a disgusting practice that shows NO RESPECT for our natural world.

  6. We need to take care of all the creatures of the earth. We need to stop maiming and harming animals. We need to bad finning sharks.

  7. what a horrible thing. this has got to stop right now. poor things. why must so many humans find it such a needed thing to do horrific things to animals?

  8. We need your support to prevent shark finning. Vote on September 19 to end fin removal at sea, no exceptions.

  9. We need your support to prevent shark finning. Vote on September 19 to end fin removal at sea, no exceptions.

  10. Pan shark finning, in the EU. eat sardines, and farmed trout. they make just as good a soup and in fact become a vegetarian, eat rat fruits and veggies, love longer, hare sharper branns, healthier bodies resistant to cancers, and save our seas. Farm, grow and plan eatible gardens where ever you live. be well and blessed, in light and love Angel Tompkins, La Tuna Canyon, CA USA

  11. The we fish has to change for the future, if you care about our children are going eat when they try to feed their children, well, be sensible. Fish safely, sensibly and without cruelty.

  12. The way we fish has to change for a better future, if you care about our children, what they will fish, what they will feed their children, well, be sensible, fish safely, sensibly and with out cruelty.

  13. It is (not so common)-sense to stop acts of cruelty towards all sentient beings; no being should live in fear that part of thier body will be taken away from them by force.

  14. Il serait grand temps de considérer tous les animaux comme des êtres vivants, tels que nous, et de leur donner le droit de vivre dans leur environnement naturel. Les animaux ne sont pas des produits d’exploitation. Aussi, toute forme de maltraitance, d’abus et de cruauté devrait être sévèrement puni !

  15. Wystarczy wiedza i empatia na poziomie przedszkola, aby nie korzystać z procederu spozywania płetw rekina. Ci co to “żrą” i stwarzają popyt nie są godni miana człowieka. Normalny człowiek je proste potrawy i wtedy kiedy jest głodny a nie po to by zadowolic swoja prózność. Ci którzy moga zapobiec tej rzezi a tego nie robią sa jeszcze gorsi

  16. Since the devil is in the detail fins must be banned along with the barbarous practice of finning. The European Parliament must act to outlaw the practice, and put as much pressure as is diplomatically possible on countries in other parts of the world to do the same. Sharks are essential to the world’s oceans, they must not be rendered extinct.

  17. Humans cannot presume everything on land and in the sea is there for their greedy money grabbing slaughter. Todays greed is tomorrows nothing. God never created all forms of life for man to think he owned it all, and could treat it with no compassion whatsoever.

  18. Please stop the barbaric practice of shark finning and leave the fins on the sharks where they belong.

  19. This practice MUST BE CONDEMNED ! It is a disgrace such things since happen in this so called civilized world ! what will people not do for greed ?! unbelievable the atrocities going around and how abused animals are all over the world –

  20. Not only shark finning has to be forbidden but also the means to go around the rules.
    Selling fins for a fortune & a kilo of shark meat for a cent to fishing industries!!

  21. One has to question why humans are so needlessly cruel, animals when they kill, are humane [no pun intended] and only kill for food, humans need to rethink their terrible attitude towards other life and our planet as a WHOLE.

  22. Please stop shark finninf, as the seas are loosing all big fishes to stop for example jelly fish invasion.

  23. Only unutterably cruel twisted individuals could do this to innocent creatures in there own territory. How id like to see that for every fin we take the executioners penis. Not that its completely fair for at least the human survives, but it would make the bastards think before they act.

  24. Words cannot express how angry, dismayed and appalled at this incredibly selfish cruel act. it needs to stopped now

  25. Stop killing sharks for their fins!! If you were starving you would take and consume the complete fish – sharks are edible! If its just a whim of the consumer to eat only the fins – they cannot be starving!! So leave them alone!!

  26. This disgusting inhumane act should be stopped immediately. it is a disgrace that it was ever allowed. Imagine yourself being treated like this, whoever does this to these poor innocent creatures.

  27. What an appalling species we belong to! At least try to show a semblance of civilisation and ‘humanity’ (ha!) and vote to stop this dreadful behaviour.

  28. It disgust,s me to the pit of my stomach to think that there is human being,s (if you can call them that) out there that can do !such a thing for a living all animal,s and creature,s are here for a reason just like us!

  29. What humans don’t understand or appreciate they usually destroy, experiment on, control, abuse… are you one of these or do you stand and make a change and protect life?

  30. We have to respect animals although they belong to a lower kind, they cannot express their sufferings and pain, as they are not able to speak as we human beings do, when we don´t feel well. Besides our teeth are not the teeth of a carnivorous. We are vegetarians by nature. Eating meat is a tradition and culture, but not a necessity.

  31. Let’s see if the European community HAS THE BALLS to ban sharkfinning agains the will of capitalism.
    Good luck dude’s

  32. I first photographed the horrible practice of finning nearly 20 years ago..Sadly too little is being done perhaps its not already too late for certain species but we must be potermistic that if we all voice our concerns and do something in a small way we can make a difference

  33. Whilst I am afraid of sharks, they scare the **** out of me, I do NOT condone cruelty to them, finning cannot be described in any other way, it is immensely cruel and is totally unjustifiable. If sharks did not need fins they would have been born without them, they are very obviously necessary for the creatures survival!

  34. It’s really strange that we as humans, in order to show that we are at the top of the chain, have to destroy the wildlife, animals of our world to survive. However in doing so, all we are doing as humans, is destroying ourselves. Lets stop destroying our selves by stopping the destruction if the wildlife, the animals of our world. It’s our world, it’s their world, and it’s the only world that we have.

  35. I don’t understand the mentality of some of my fellow man. It makes me ashamed. These creatures think and feel. This makes my heart heavy. Sheer torture!

  36. It is a barbaric practice. Just imagine someone comes along cuts our arms off and throws us back on the road, left to bleed to death. How ever can any human being do such a cruel act. My heart is bleeding, I feel so sad about all the animal cruelty. We have to stop NOW and not one moment later.

  37. Sharks are VITAL to the balance of the ocean ecosystem. And they have been, for tens of millions of years. They are very old and very successful species for very good reasons. By slaughtering sharks and reducing their populations, humans are harming themselves. In fact, with the crash of key fish species from overfishing, the global destruction of fish-incubating coral reef, ocean pollution, and the great reduction in shark populations, we are flirting with utter disaster. Just as bad, the sheer brutality with which humans treat other animals and the CRUCIAL resources of the oceans is more than appalling. If anyone thinks Mother Nature will let us humans continue to behave with such utter disregard for other creatures and the world environment — think again, if you are not so blinded by stupidity and ignorance.

  38. It’s about time humans began to realise that ALL living creatures feel pain and need to be respected. Do unto others ……….

  39. Surely we have reached a stage in our existence where we have no need for such barbaric treatment of other residents of our planet. Please stop this needless and senseless killing.

  40. In full support for the banning of shark finning. We need to start supporting our ecological systems, and with the shark population rapidly depleting because of over fishing and slaughtering, this is a step in the right direction. STOP SHARK FINNING NOW! We are all living beings and we all need to be treated with the utmost respect and care! Become Vegan, support our ecosystem! Thank you, blessings.

  41. This is an inhumane practice that is wiping out a huge part of the ocean’s delicate ecosystem. Ban shark finning in the EU! We need to step up and begin to change our negative impact on our world and our future.

  42. Proibir definitivamente a pesca ao tubarão,tambem para os que querem manter o negócio das cauddas.A igorãncia devia custar-lhes uma mão para vêr se gostam.

  43. This is a truly barbaric and inhumane activity. I am surprised that it is happening in our waters. Of course, it should be banned.

  44. This is a disgusting practice where the fins are stripped off a living shark (no not a great white but a shark like the basker that lives a peaceful life and hurts no one).Then the body is dumped to die in terrible pain. Indeed this is not a very humane way to kill a shark and will bring different species very close to extinction if not ACTUAL extinction. And all for a bowl of over prioced fish soup another reason that I rejoice in not eating fish, but you bet I’ll sign this petition!

  45. i cant believe we actually have to ask EU to ban shark-finning for comercial trade and other not-sustainable actions with nature. its cruel meaningless and absolutely without any form of propiety. do i have to remind how mankind react when its the other way around and people experience one sharkattack??? i hereby hope that the right people concerned act with the responsiblelity that their job calls for and ban this madness.

  46. Shark finning must be stopped and these creatures should no longer be allowed to suffer – it’s inhumane!!

  47. Stop the killing of all sea creatures. You don’t see them coming on land and removing our body parts, leaving us to suffer an inhumane death. STOP NOW!!!!

  48. This is a cruel practice. This is an unsustainable practice. It’s destroying the natural food chain. Shark fins are not a vital food source!

  49. Yes, inhumane, but how to convince the Chinese and others who consider it a delicacy akin to fois gras, as well as a status symbol?

  50. We need to stop all animal abuse. Why do humans think they should be able to do evil things to animals.

  51. I fully support the Europeanc Union shark finning ban. But we can also help by not going to restaurants that serve fin soup.

  52. Stop shark finning NOW!!! I see fewer and fewer sharks when I dive and its a sad and sorry sign of things to come. Soon its going to be too late.

  53. Please stop this horrible cruelty against the sharks. It would be no different if someone cut your arms off and threw you in the water. This is so wrong
    Please stop

  54. There is no way to justify this – if you condone it or benefit from it you are greedy or self-indulgent to the point of barbarism. Can we humans treat other humans or animals thus…and not expect to have to be accountable for our error?

  55. dont think these disconnected people would appreciate their leg being sawn off with a blunt knife and thrown in the ocean. this disgusts me and makes me angry

  56. I’m British but live in Singapore and it makes me sick to see the piles of shark fins at the ‘wet markets’ where locals buy their produce and meat. As part of the Chinese culture they believe it’s beneficial to their health, along with ground rhino horn, tiger claw, etc etc.. Oh and nests made by birds saliva (yuk!). The Chinese and similar cultures that eat these items have a lot to answer for and need to be re-educated that eating these do NOT improve your health, as research has shown. Please show your support in getting this banned!

  57. Please stop this dreadfully cruel practice in which the shark is left to die in agonising pain. Stop shark finning!

  58. This is a disgusting practice and must be stopped. These fishermen (and women??) should have their arms cut off and then be dumped in the sea to suffer the same fate that they enjoy inflicting on these innocent creatures.

  59. Killing the sea creatures is easy … but in this manner will dissapear the variery of ocean what can be done then? STOP KILLING!!!

  60. I appreciate that it is going to be difficult to stop this practice but it must be stopped.

    In many ways it is akin to the slaughter of elephants etc. for their ivory.

    Only by changing the mind set of those who demand the end result will stop these practices.

    No demand = no cruel practices.

  61. It is so hard to believe that a few greedy people need to slurp sharks’ fin soup; therefore, kill more and more sea creatures who need to be left alone. Mankind is truly disgusting. Stop the slaughter!

  62. What on earth is wrong with people today, why????? how would they feel if something harmful was done to them and see how they like it. It makes me sick to think that humans can do these things to animals, and you know if they do this to animals, what will they do to each other??? I hope we can put an end to this, the sooner the better.

  63. I can not imagine the agony these poor animals suffer. Such cruelty sickens me. How can we say we are the most evolved species when we are capable of such barbarity as this?

  64. its d need of the hour to stop killing shark , d innocent beautiful creature should be spared for d sake of humanity to live untouched.

  65. You must stop this barbaric slaughter immediately. Stop the killing of animals altogether. It is outrageous to murder an animal for a part of its body. It is just plain MURDER, NO SUGAR COATING, AND IT NEEDS TO STOP.