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EU Shark Finning Regulation - Urgent Action Required 25/3/03




Dear All

On Thursday 27 March the European Parliament meets in Plenary to take a vote on amendments to the proposed Council Regulation on the removal of fins of sharks on board vessels.

What you can do: read the text below and send a copy to your MEP - this requires IMMEDIATE ACTION so we can ensure as many informed MEPs as possible attend the plenary session on Thursday and vote in support of an effective and enforceable Regulation which will actually improve the management and sustainability of shark fisheries. Please also encourage friends and collegues to write similar letters.

MEP email addresses can be access through:

http://wwwdb.europarl.eu.int/ep5....ig=home

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Current situation: the original Proposal (document 11547/02) would prohibit the removal of shark fins on board vessels except under certain circumstances, by special fishing permit, and only if fins and partly processed carcasses were retained on board and landed together with the fins not exceeding 5% by weight of the total weight of remaining parts of sharks after evisceration. This is modelled on the Finning Act that governs shark fisheries in the Western North Atlantic and which has been accepted by the fishing industry in this regions.

Numerous amendments have been proposed by Environment and Fisheries Committees and the Commission. The Environment Committee amendments would strengthen the Regulation by minimising removal of fins on board vessels (a requirement in Australian shark fisheries) and improve associated fisheries monitoring and management measures. Some amendments would significantly weaken it, by increasing the original 5% ratio of fin to carcass weight to a ratio not supported by scientific data and by permitting separate landings of fins and carcasses, thus making the Regulation unenforceable at landing sites. This would allow illegal finning and discard of shark bodies at sea to continue virtually unchecked.

Course of action: although amendments that strengthen the proposed regulation would be most welcome, it is at essential that any compromise approach should at least retain the provisions in the original draft: namely a ratio of fins to other parts of the shark landed that does not exceed 5% by weight., and the requirement that all detached fins must be landed together with the other parts of the shark, so that this ratio can be verified by inspectors at landing points.

What you can do: please attend the Plenary session on Thursday and vote in favour of an effective and enforceable Regulation which will actually improve the management and sustainability of shark fisheries. Please also encourage your colleagues to use their votes wisely.

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All the best, and thank you for your support - apologies to those beyond Europe, but feel free to lend your voice.

All the best

Ali Hood

Conservation Officer

The Shark Trust

Rope Walk

Coxside

Plymouth

PL4 0LF

Ph.01752 672020

Fax 01752 672008


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European Parliament Votes To Waste 66% of EU Shark Catch 27/03/03

Dear All - thank you to those who forwarded letters on to your MEPs, unfortunately the vote did not go our way.  We will be expressing our concerns to Elliot Morley, and I will let you know what you can do to help.

WildAid  

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

In a Plenary session today, the European Parliament voted to allow the “finning” of sharks to continue in EU waters and on EU vessels around the world.

Finning involves the removal of a shark’s fins, often while it is still living, and the discarding of the body back into the sea. The practice became widespread in the 1980s as a result of rapid economic growth in east Asia, which permitted mass consumption of shark fin soup, previously reserved only for the very wealthy. The resulting escalation in the price of fins created an incentive to harvest fins from sharks that, in the past, were often returned alive to the sea. The far less valuable body, however, takes up too much room and is thrown back overboard.  

Conservation groups, concerned about the rapid depletion of shark populations worldwide, have spent two years attempting to persuade the EU to ban the practice, which wastes up to 95% of the shark.  

The key element in the Parliamentary vote was whether or not the new regulations should require that all sharks be landed whole. “That would have been the most efficient and enforceable way of prohibiting finning”, said Sarah Fowler of the Shark Trust, “but the idea was rejected”.

The fall-back position was to allow removal of fins on board, provided that the vessel’s cargo of fins weighed no more than 5% of the beheaded and gutted sharks on board and that the fins and bodies were landed together. Not only did the Parliament agree to allow separate landings, effectively preventing monitoring and enforcement of the regulation at landing places but the fins are permitted to weigh up to 6% of the live weight of the shark. These distinctions are critical, as a shark’s head and internal organs are very heavy in relation to its total weight.

“They haven’t done the maths properly”, says Sarah Fowler. “For the species commonly caught in EU fisheries, 2% of live weight is more than generous. The wiggle room that a ratio of 6% of fins to live weight gives to the industry will, in fact, permit them to fin and discard two or more sharks for every one that they land, and still be able to produce the ‘correct’ ratio of fins to bodies on the quayside”.

In reality, this means that at least 66% of sharks caught by EU vessels can still be finned.

Recent research has revealed that some shark populations in the North-west Atlantic have declined by as much as 90% in the past 15 years. This is a pattern that is repeated all over the world.

“The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has acknowledged that sharks are in trouble globally,” says Susie Watts of WildAid, “and so have numerous other multi-lateral organisations. We know sharks play a key role in their ecosystems, we know that impoverished coastal communities around the world depend on them for protein and we know that they’re disappearing fast. But the Parliament has decided that it’s fine to carry on throwing them away”.

The European Parliamentary vote will be considered by the EU Fisheries Commission at a meeting next week, when it will come to a final decision on the regulations, before sending its recommendations to the Council of Ministers for final approval in April.

“If the amendments agreed by the Parliament are reflected in the final regulations, they will be tantamount to a licence to fin hundreds of thousands of sharks”, said Susie Wat
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<font color='#000080'>Following up to Bren's last post this was the reply I received from the Chairman of the fisheries commision :-

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Many thanks for your e-mail of 26 March, 2003.

I apologise for the delay in responding to you, but I wished to wait and see the outcome of the vote on the Proposal to prohibit the removal of shark fins on board vessels, held last Thursday.

Although the result obtained was positive in the sense that the Commission now sees shark-finning as a problem, in my view, the result fell short in a few key areas.

I personally was extremely supportive of the amendments the Environment Committee retabled for Plenary that you mentioned in your e-mail.  However, there has been a lot of interest in this Regulation from certain Member States with an invested interest in this area, and although I was able to persuade many of my colleagues, some amendments failed to win the support of the whole Parliament.

I believe that this has watered down the Regulation significanctly, particularly with regard to the landing of whole sharks, the fin to weight ratio and trans-shipment regulations.

However, there will be an opportunity to review this legislation when the European Commission proposes its Comprehensive Action Plan for the Sustainable Management of Shark Fisheries.

Rest assured that I am fully supportive of a crack down on Shark Finning and will fight for more stringent legislation.

Kind regards

Struan Stevenson
Chairman of the Fisheries Committee

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