Even though shark finning has already been banned in UK waters since 2013, legislation loopholes allowed the UK to still be part of the global trade. For example, it was still legal to bring 25 kg of shark fin into the UK for ‘personal consumption’. A Greenpeace investigation also revealed that several tonnes of shark fins were exported from the UK since 2017.
The recent announcement is part of the government’s post-Brexit plan to improve animal welfare standards domestically and overseas as set out in its Action Plan for Animal Welfare.
Animal welfare minister Lord Goldsmith announced: “Shark finning is indescribably cruel and causes thousands of shark to die terrible deaths. It is also unforgivably wasteful. The practice is rightly banned in UK waters, but the trade continues, with serious implications for the future of these magnificent creatures.” He continued: “That is why we are now banning the import both of detached shark fins and shark fin products. Our action will not only help boost shark numbers, it will send a clear message that we do not support an industry that is forcing many species to the brink of extinction.”
Out of over 500 species of shark, 143 are currently listed as ‘under threat’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main reasons for the decline: shark fin products and over-fishing. The presence of sharks in marine areas is a key indicator for ocean health and the animals play a vital role in maintaining healthy levels of fish below them in the food chain. It is hoped that the ban will help protect endangered species such as the short fin mako shark and the blue shark.
Ali Hood, director of conservation for the Shark Trust, said: “It is encouraging to see the UK addressing the fin trade as an element of overfishing: the principal threat to sharks and rays. And we’re noting that the UK is ramping up its engagement in domestic and international shark conservation issues, currently championing the science-based advice for a prohibition on mako in North Atlantic high-seas fisheries.”
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