Endangered species

UK's Shark Fins Act passes into law

Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by Kimberly Jeffries and Brook Peterson via Ocean Image Bank

The Shark Fins Act passed into law yesterday, 29 June, marking a major step in the conservation of shark species around the world. The Shark Fins Act will ban the import and export of detached shark fins, including all products containing shark fins such as tinned shark fin soup.

Shark finning is the cruel and wasteful practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and discarding the finless body back in the water. The practice has been banned in the UK since 2003 through the Shark Finning Regulation, and since 2009 a ‘Fins Naturally Attached’ policy has been enforced to further combat illegal finning of sharks in UK waters and by UK vessels worldwide.

Every year, the UK exports around 20 tonnes of shark fins from primarily blue sharks to Spain where they get processed and then shipped to Asia for use in shark fin soup, amongst other uses.

The Shark Fins Act builds on existing protections by preventing the trade of detached shark fins and related products obtained using this method. Many species of shark now face significant population pressures. Out of over 500 species of shark, 143 are listed as ‘Under Threat’ under the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with different species ranging from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Critically Endangered’.

Demand for shark fin products and subsequent overfishing is a significant driver for these pressures. The Act will help protect sharks and reduce the unsustainable overfishing of sharks. The presence and variety of sharks in marine areas act as a key indicator for ocean health while the animals also play a vital role in marine ecosystems by helping to maintain healthy levels of fish below them in the food chain.

Steve Backshall, MBE, naturalist and wildlife presenter, commented: “Today is a huge win for shark conservation and a real cause for celebration. Sharks are beautiful and incredibly complex animals, but sadly frequently misunderstood. With this tough ban on the import and export of shark fins now law, we are not only supporting the survival of these ancient creature but also sending a clear message the UK has zero tolerance for this wasteful and destructive trade.”

“It’s fantastic news,” added Ali Hood, director of conservation at the Shark Trust. “The UK has long taken a stand against shark finning. Seeing fins naturally attached enshrined into UK law reinforces this stance. And the addition of a ban on the import and export of detached shark fins eases customs checks and enables the UK to hold other countries to the same standard to which we hold ourselves. Our thanks to Christina Rees MP, Baroness Whitchurch, and the many organisations and individuals who have joined this cause over the years.”

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Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by Kimberly Jeffries and Brook Peterson via Ocean Image Bank

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