What the $&!* happened? A summary of the “contradictory, confusing, and inconsistent” EU finning ban votes

Last Wednesday morning, the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament voted on proposed amendments that would, if passed, form their response to the European Commission’s 2011 proposal to end all removal of shark fins at sea (and thereby close loopholes in the EU finning ban).  As the EU is the single largest supplier of shark fins to the Hong Kong markets, the eyes of the marine conservation community were focused squarely on Brussels, where the vote was taking place. Despite the numerous celebratory tweets , press releases , and Facebook updates that I observed, the vote didn’t go as well as hoped. The result has been described as “contradictory”, “confusing”, “puzzling”, and “inconsistent”, and it’s hard to disagree with that summary.

The Committee voted on a series of amendments, most of which had been debated earlier this year. Most of the problematic amendments were defeated and several positive amendments were endorsed. One of the most closely watched, which would have maintained exceptions to the current ban on at-sea fin removal and would have raised the fin to carcass ratio to 14% of dressed weight, was defeated. However, proposed text which refers (in principle, but without details)  to removal of fins at sea also narrowly passed.

Yes, you read that correctly. MEPs (Members of European Parliament) voted to adopt text that suggests that removing fins at sea is sometimes acceptable, but voted to accept the Commission’s proposal to delete that part of the current regulation allowing for such exceptions. Contradictory, confusing, puzzling, and inconsistent indeed!

Don’t worry, though- this isn’t over. One of the next steps is a discussion before a Plenary session of the full European Parliament, which will consider these issues. This will likely take place in the next few months, perhaps as early as mid-October.

“We will continue to urge all MEPs to promptly remove all confusion in Plenary and clearly endorse a strict EU policy against removing shark fins at sea, without exceptions,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International.

I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening and how you can help.


  1. Tseten Tashi · September 24, 2012

    Contradictory, confusing and inconsistent in the finning ban votes are all caused by the greed and money involved, rather then thinking on ecosystem and morality of compassion to other living beings. Such acts of savagery of craeting lots of suffering to other animals of any kind in this world should be stopped not only the sharks.

  2. m tuxford · September 24, 2012

    it beggars belief in this day and age that atrocities are still being allowed to happen. The EU think they are a law unto themselves and can do what they want. We vote the MEP’s in to look after the rights of all life, but we are sadly mistaken because their only concern is what they make and take for themselves. They are a disgrace to the human race.

  3. Cheryl SIlva · September 24, 2012

    Please remove all confusion in Plenary and clearly endorse a strict EU policy against removing shark fins at sea, without exceptions

  4. dianne holle · September 24, 2012

    How can people be so heartless??!!…I am with you all the way to stop shark finning. Thank you, Dianne Holle

  5. Sabazius · September 24, 2012

    Pure greed and avarice.
    As we destroy the primary parasites *sharks* that clean up the majority of the first stage of all dead and dying animals and debris – in the oceans – it is essential that we have them there. The secondary and lower levels of finer parasites that keep the oceans clean will be overwhelmed and unable to do their job. If we lose the sharks we pollute the oceans so severely that we start to lose the oceans.

    Not to mention the destruction for unneccessary reasons for shark fin soup – like that’s essential to life on earth – to maintain basic life!

    Why not take the shark and freeze it after they de-fin it and use it for the millions of poor in desperate need of any food? Instead we pollute the seas. Sharks – 80% less then they were ten years ago. This is an epidemic crisis ALREADY!

    This is not sane, right or ethical at all?
    But then companies don’t have to be ethical – they have no soul’s as corporations. But the people who run the companies have souls = and therefore the karmic destruction and wanton butchering and taking of life – needlessly falls on them.

    I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. But they are asleep at the wheel. So how do we wake them up to the conscious reality of their choices and how they impact others, life, and self?

    It’s prayer, action of writing campaigns, it’s peace, it’s goodwill in the face of ignorance.

    There is no other choice in the world that has been successful in any kind of change in humanity.

    Ask ourselves – what would GANDHI do?

  6. elisabeth newhouse · September 24, 2012

    Sometimes I dispair about the world we live in and peoples inability to see whats cruel. Ban this practice do not throw the sharks back after cutting off their fins.Why do they need to have a slow and painful death>???????

  7. Deb Padovano · September 24, 2012

    This is very diaappointing but we cannot give up. Please keep me posted.

  8. karen leathwaite · September 25, 2012

    Let me know of developments and I will help.

  9. Ray W. · September 25, 2012

    Shark finning should be banned,full stop.there is no need for this in this day and age ,it amounts to cruelty .

  10. Jennifer McCarthy · September 26, 2012

    This is really disheartening news after seeing what happens to the poor creatures following my little boy’s school project I became interested in stopping shark finning – I had no idea they did it while the poor shark was alive and then throw it back into the ocean to drown. Its a disgusting vile process that should be banned. Imagine how everyone would be up in arms if we started chopping human limbs off and throwing them into the ocean alive to drown??? Its murderous, treacherous and full of disgrace. Lets work together to put a stop to it all together. Cruelty to animals and other living creatures needs to cease.

  11. Samantha Whitcraft · September 26, 2012

    Given this failure at the heart of fisheries management and policy, trade bans and consumer-based advocacy continue to present as effective and viable options in responsible shark conservation.

    • WhySharksMatter · September 28, 2012

      An interesting point, Sam. However, as I’ve said before, part of the issue is where these trade bans are occurring.

      The U.S., which has some of the best (not perfect, but some of the best) shark fisheries management in the world, is where most “fin bans” have been proposed.

      The E.U. is a totally separate entity, largely fishing for totally separate populations of sharks. They are the ones with relatively poor fisheries management. I haven’t heard of any seriously-considered proposals to ban the trade of fins in Spain or Portugal, which are the troublemakers, and if they can’t even agree on responsible fisheries management I seriously doubt they’d agree to stop the trade of fins altogether.

      And consumer-based advocacy is a separate policy from trade bans. I largely support consumer based advocacy, particularly of the kind that Shark Savers does. The only time I have a problem with it is when it’s full of culturally insensitive rhetoric or inaccurate information, which is not the case with your organization.

  12. Tracy Wills · September 27, 2012

    I can’t believe there is confusion on whether or not slicing fins of live sharks and then discarding then to die painfully and slowly is acceptable!! Kill to eat the whole animal if you have to but do it humanely at least! What a waste!!….SHAME ON THE EU!!!

  13. Claudia Christiansen · September 28, 2012

    No finning. Period. Lose the “at sea” or they will think of something else to keep finning .

    • WhySharksMatter · September 29, 2012

      If the fins aren’t removed at sea, it isn’t finning.

  14. Corina Streahorn · September 29, 2012

    I personally am offended by the tactic being used so they can continue slicing off fins, and toss the living shark into the ocean. How is it possible for anyone not to understand the works stop cutting off sharks fins. I seriously have doubts that there is anyone that has a miniscule amount of intelligences being placed in charge of rules and regulations. If this does not concern the one being asked to strike this practice, then that person or group or what have you, should pass this on to whom it concerns, or let us know who would be in charge of this topic.

  15. Hannah Shaughnessy · October 3, 2012

    When extinction is a consequence, any tradition, no matter how entrenched in a culture has to change! This subject seems to demonstrate a strange conflict among us as human beings. What we really need to understand is that all of the ocean’s fish and marine life are what keep the marine ecosystem alive and sharing with mankind. And all ecosystems are intricately integrated, they all loop back to both climate and atmosphere, they all create the very life zone of the Earth, our biosphere/ecosphere ect…Cruelty of this practice aside, I believe that the international community must speak with one voice, one goal. To stop the senseless slaughter of any species.

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