Global Ocean's Petition to amend EU legislation on Shark Finning
Endorsed by Lesley Rochat:World recognised shark conservationist and keynote speaker on sharks for Global Ocean.
8, 433 SIGNATURES!*
A huge thank you to everyone who signed and shared our petition. We have now submitted our contribution to the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in Brussels. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on our progress. Thanks for your contribution to encourage this change and ultimately helping to safeguard shark populations worldwide! Best wishes, The Global Ocean Team.
*(8,373 online signatures, 60 paper signatures)
The Global Situation
• Global populations of large predatory fish (tuna, marlin, swordfish etc) are down 90% since the onset of large-scale industrial fishing in the 1950’s.
• Declines of at least the same magnitude seem likely for sharks.
• Each year, millions of sharks are slaughtered due to mismanagement, inadequate compliance and illegal and unregulated fishing.
• Of the 591 species of sharks and rays listed with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 21% are threatened with extinction, 18% have a near-threatened status and 35% lack data in order to affirm their populations.
The following figure was published in the Science journal in 2007 demonstrating the percentage loss in key shark populations due to overfishing from 1972 onwards:
Problems for Sharks
- Tens of millions of sharks caught as bycatch every year
- Atlantic fisheries alone report 57 species of shark caught as bycatch
- According to the FAO, some fisheries actually catch more sharks than their targeted species
- It has been documented that a very large proportion of sharks caught on long lines survive if they are released (around 80% arrive alive on deck).
WildAid & Oceana Report: The End of the Line? Global Threats to Sharks (2007)
Finning – The Practise:
Each year, up to 73 million sharks are slaughtered due to the lucrative and intense market for shark fins, which are an ingredient in a gourmet Asian soup. This is around 138 shark per minute or around 200,000 per day!
Why Finning Occurs: Shark Fin Soup
Shark fin soup or “Yu Chi” translates to ‘fish wing’ in Chinese.
- The History of Shark Fin Soup:
- It was considered a delicacy since the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) and was available only to a privileged few on special occasions (similar to caviar 100 years ago).
- Discouraged under Mao Tse-tung’s leadership as an elitist practice
- Politically “rehabilitated” in the late 1980’s
- Increased availability due to the global intensification of shark fishing efforts
- Now eaten by 100s of millions of people and is a ubiquitous dish at weddings, banquets and business dinners
- Fins can fetch up to US$1,000 (over £600) per kilo.
- Myths about Fins:
- Fins grow back
- Shark fin is flavoursome and nutritious
- Fins have medicinal properties
Although the quality and texture is deemed important, the fins are essentially tasteless with no proven health benefits. In addition heavy metals such as mercury can accumulate in shark tissue in concentrations that exceed the safe limit for humans. These levels are particularly high in sharks, in comparison to other fish, due to their longevity (increasing the time of exposure), slow metabolic rate (reducing mercury excretion) and their position at the top of the food chain, allowing for biomagnification effects.
Pethybridge, H., et al. (2009). Mercury in 16 demersal sharks from southeast Australia: Biotic and abiotic sources of variation and consumer health implications. Marine Environmental Research, doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2009.07.006.
Shark Consumption Habits & Attitudes in Hong Kong: BLOOM Report Summary
Hong Kong has one of the world highest shark fin consumption rates and also handles at least 50% of the world’s shark fin trade each year.
Above all shark products available in Hong Kong, shark fin is the most frequently consumed, predominantly as shark fin soup. A bowl of shark fin soup can fetch up to $100.
In April 2011 BLOOM and the University of Hong Kong published a survey believed to be the most comprehensive research on shark consumption habits and attitudes in Hong Kong to date.
Key Results from 1,029 Respondents:
Nearly 80% find it acceptable not to include shark fin soup in a wedding banquet menu.
According to the field research, more than 70% of people in Hong Kong consumed shark fin soup at least once in the twelve-month period to January 2010. In 90% of cases consumption was at wedding banquets and 52% said that they eat shark fins for its tradition.
Interestingly, the research showed that 87% of the time shark fin soup is consumed as part of a set menu, whilst fewer than one in ten order the dish a la carte. This suggested that many consumers are not actively choosing to eat the dish.
The majority of people surveyed are open to alternatives to shark fin soup.
88% believe that the Hong Kong government should prohibit the sale of products that involve killing endangered species and 85% express support for a ban on the import of shark fin into Hong Kong.
BLOOM, a non-profit organization that aims to protect sharks and other vulnerable marine species collaborated with the University of Hong Kong Social Sciences Research Centre to conduct this field research over the period of 2009-2010. This research has included more than 1,000 participants and successful interviews.
EU and Exports
Despite an official ban on shark finning in the EU the abuse of loopholes have allowed fishermen to continue finning, by obtaining Special Fisheries Permits (SFP). As a result it has been predicted that hundreds of tonnes of shark fins have been landed since the European legislative restrictions were introduced.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the EU is the world’s largest trader of shark products and is responsible for over 30% of worldwide exports. More critically the EU is the world’s largest exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong.
Some European Union member states are among the top twenty shark catching countries in the world. For example Spain had the third highest capture rate in the global population of sharks between 2000-2008 (Table 1)
In recent years, sharks have made up 50% of EU pelagic catches in the Pacific and over 70% in the Atlantic.
The largest numbers of SFP’s are issued to Spanish and Portuguese pelagic longline vessels.
The EU exports shark products primarily to Japan and China via Hong Kong (the latter is primarily shark fin), as well as Russia, which is a growing trading partner in shark meat.
In 2010, Spain and Portugal were the only member states still issuing SFPs, and did so for most of their shark fishing vessels. In February 2010, Cyprus, which has reported an average catch of 20t/year of sharks, skates and rays in the last decade, informed the Commission that it intends to start issuing SFPs.
In the UK and Germany, SFPs have been banned indicating that progress can be achieved. However there is a need to remedy the problem on a wider European scale.
Shark fins in Europe: Implications for reforming the EU finning ban. November 2010. Sarah Fowler and Bernard Seret with contributions from Shelley Clarke, Sonja Fordham and Julia Santana Garço.
Lack and Sant (2009) Trends in Global Shark Catch and Recent Developments in Management. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.
Hareide, N.R., Carlson J., Clarke M., Clarke S., Ellis J., Fordham S., Fowler S., Pinho M., Raymakers C., Serena F., Séret B., and Polti S. (2007). European Shark Fisheries: a preliminary investigation into fisheries, conversion factors, trade products, markets and management measures. European Elasmobranch Association.
Oceanic Développement and MegaPesca Lda. (2007). Analysis of the trade aspects of the German proposals to list two species of shark (porbeagle – Lamna nasus – and spiny dogfish – Squalus acanthias) in Appendix II of the CITES Convention. Report ref: FPA 01/CITES/07 to the European Commission.
Why Sharks are so Vulnerable
- Sharks are confined to just 30% of the world’s oceans, this means all populations are within reach of humans.
- Most fish are adapted to a fluctuating environment; they are small, mature quickly, mate early and produce large numbers of offspring. This is known as an R-selected species.
- In comparison sharks grow slowly, mature late, reproduce seasonally and produce few large offspring. This is known as a K-selected species.
- As long as predation levels on sharks are low the shark population will remain resilient. However, if predation and therefore mortality rates become high K-selected species are less resilient due to their reproductive nature.
- Most sharks segregate by sex and size. This means that if mature female groups are targeted for finning, the effect on breeding can be devastating to populations.
Why Help Sharks?
- Sharks are apex predators, this means they play a vital role in maintaining marine biodiversity and ocean health.
- By over-fishing such an important predator in the sea, we are disrupting the food chain. Consequentially this could destabilise the populations of other commercially viable fish and cause further disruption to the fishing industry. PDF to Myers paper.
- Sharks are over 400 million years old - (older than the dinosaurs!)
- Despite their media image, more people are killed each year by lightening, bee stings or faulty toasters than by shark bites!
See this video Rethink the shark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZ2DyVqZYi4&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
For every human killed by a shark, we kill 8,000,000 sharks and shark-like fish
Global Ocean’s EU Shark Petition
The Commission's consultation closed on 21 February 2011.
Global Ocean is part of a prolific campaign in the UK and propose an amendment of Council Regulation (EC) 1185/2003 on the removal of fins of sharks onboard vessels. (See European Commission - Fisheries website for more information).
We believe that all methods of shark finning in the EU should be completely banned, and should be enforced by requiring all shark bodies to be landed with their fins naturally attached. In conjunction with fishing restrictions, this would result in fewer sharks being returned to the shore and should therefore reduce the number that are slaughtered.
Our petition proposed that Council Regulation 1185/2003 should be amended as such: all shark finning to be completely banned, with no derogations, permits such as SFPs, loopholes or exceptions, and to be enforced by requiring all shark bodies to be landed with their fins naturally attached.
This is the course of action recommended by the Shark Specialist Group, the world’s foremost collection of respected shark experts. They maintain that this amendment is the only fail-safe, most reliable and least expensive means to enforce the shark finning ban in accordance with the EU’s own legal obligation defined under Article 2(1) of the CFP Basic Regulation (Regulation EC/2371/2002).
In conjunction with this amendment, Global Ocean welcomes further discussion and enforcement of protection measures (such as those agreed upon at the ICCAT meeting 2010) to further enhance shark conservation and management.
Our petition was endorsed by Lesley Rochat, World recognized shark conservationist and keynote speaker on sharks for Global Ocean. Lesley contributed to the petition by including a letter of support that was submitted alongside Global Ocean’s petition and supporting documentation.
In addition our petition was supported by Channel 4’s Big Fish Fight Season and corresponded with Gordon Ramsey’s documentary ‘Shark Bait’. Global Ocean is now an official supporter of The Big Fish Fight and continues to promote their work.
The EU has a significant role in influencing and developing international fishing policies. By enacting the following amendments, the EU can be part of an initiative that ends this cruel and wasteful practice, whilst setting a worldwide precedent for shark conservation.
For further information on this issue see the Shark Alliance website: http://www.sharkalliance.org/content.asp?did=36810
How Can I Help?
- Say NO to shark fin soup
- Spread the word about the impact finning has on global shark populations
- Read Bloom’s recommendations for Hong Kong Here
- Support campaigns against shark finning such as:
- Buy the Sharkwater documentary and show your friends, family and colleagues.
- Buy a copy of Sharks in Deep Trouble and find out what finning is really all about (WARNING: Footage is graphic and not for sensitive viewers). E-mail email@example.com to purchase a copy.
- Attend Dr Eric Ritter’s shark school to learn more about these beautiful but vulnerable creatures and help raise awareness.
For a detailed overview of this issue please refer to Shark fins in Europe: Implications for reforming the EU finning ban. November 2010. Sarah Fowler and Bernard Seret with contributions from Shelley Clarke, Sonja Fordham and Julia Santana Garçon. This is available to the public online.
Cascading Effects of the Loss of Apex Predatory Sharks from a Coastal Ocean. Myers, R.A., Baum, J.K., Shepherd, T.D., Powers, S.P., Peterson, C.H. 2007. Science 315 pp. 1846-1850.
- http://www.hksharkfoundation.org/ http://www.youtube.com/user/HKSharkFoundation
Warning: These films are not for sensitive viewers - these videos contain graphic footage of sharks being finned.
- How are sharks really finned? Watch the award winning film by Lesley Rochat ‘Sharks in Deep Trouble’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo8K1-BVtNw
- Save Our Sharks – Watch this short film produced by Lesley Rochat and Save Our Seas which won a Panda award at the Wildscreen Film Festival 2010: http://saveourseas.com/videos/save_our_sharks (Finning footage courtesy Lesley Rochat from Sharks in Deep Trouble).
- Shark Rescue Presentation: http://sharkrescue.com/pdf/Sharks--They're_just_awesome.pdf