The import and export of shark fins is to be banned by the UK government thanks to the Finspire Change UK campaign led by the shark conservation charity, Shark Guardian. The new law was announced by the UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice, as part of a new Action Plan for Animal Welfare.
Petitions raised through the UK government’s online portal are required by law to be debated in Parliament once they reach 100,000 signatures. Not only did Gallagher’s petition reach its intended target, more than 115,000 signatures were collected before it closed in September 2020.
The government subsequently launched a ‘Call for Evidence on the status of the shark fin trade in the UK’, to which Shark Guardian provided detailed information.
The charity was commended by Lord Zac Goldsmith of the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), who congratulated the organisation and said that he and his colleagues ‘recognise the important role that Shark Guardian has played’ in bringing the shark fin campaign to light.
A statement from the UK government published today reads:
The UK has a strong track record in marine conservation, and we have been pressing for stronger international action to protect sharks against unsustainable fishing practices and shark finning. Shark finning is the practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and discarding the finless body back in the water. It is a barbaric practice that has rightly been banned in the UK for nearly 20 years, but we do still import shark fins which may contribute to the practice. To this end, we will bring in legislation to ban the import and export of detached shark fins.
‘The UK Government’s decision to ban all imports and exports of shark fin is a significant step towards protecting sharks,’ said Brendon sing, Director of Shark Guardian in an e-mail to DIVE. ‘One-third of all sharks are threatened with extinction with many populations worldwide overfished, causing negative effects in those ecosystems. Between 2017-2018 the UK exported 83 tons of shark fin (approx 200,000 sharks killed) and there was a personal allowance of 20kg that could also be brought into the UK. Thankfully this new legislation will now put an end to any further imports and exports of shark fin.’
The UK is the first European nation to ban the trade in shark fins, even from legally caught sharks, a measure it was able to take due to its departure from the European Union. There is currently an active campaign to put an end to the shark fin trade across the EU in the form of the ‘Stop Finning EU‘ campaign, which requires signatories from all of the 27 current member states.
‘The UK has a strong track record in marine conservation, and they have been pressing for stronger international action to protect sharks against unsustainable fishing practices and shark finning,’ said Sing. ‘With this new shark fin ban now in place, the UK has certainly championed the way forward for others to follow when it comes to protecting sharks worldwide, and we hope that the EU can follow in the footsteps of the UK.’