A ban on the trade in shark fins is set to be signed into law, as a bill introduced to the UK Parliament following conservation charity Shark Guardian’s successful 2020 ‘Finspire Change‘ campaign – supported by Bite-back and the Shark Trust – moves forward for Royal Assent.
Shark Guardian launched its campaign on the UK government’s petition website in early 2020, calling on members of the public to support its campaign to ban the shark fin trade in the United Kingdom.
By September 2020 the Finspire Change UK had collected more than 115,000 signatures, meaning that the government was legally obliged to debate the petition in Parliament.
A ‘Call for Evidence’ was launched by the UK Government in December 2020, and In July 2022 a Private Member’s Bill to ban the import and export of shark fins was introduced to Parliament by Labour MP for Neath, Christina Rees, co-sponsored by Labour peer, Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, in the House of Lords.
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The Shark Fins Bill completed its passage through the House of Lords on 16 June 2023, supported unanimously by peers from all sides of the House. The process of Royal Assent is little more than a formality, which takes on average two months from the bill being passed before it is signed into law.
The law does not completely ban the trade or consumption of shark fins – it would be virtually impossible to enforce as many shark species are legally caught – but only fins that are ‘naturally attached when the animal is landed in port’ to the animal may be used. The import and export of detached sharks fins, whether loose or in products, is strictly prohibited – creating a more challenging environment for would-be traders, and simplifying enforcement of the law.
‘It has been a great privilege to take this hugely important Bill through the House of Commons, and I am delighted to see it reach its Third Reading in the House of Lords,’ said Ms Rees. ‘Shark finning is an abhorrent and cruel practice, which is not only torturous for the animal but also massively wasteful.
‘I want to put on record my thanks to campaigners in the marine conservation charities, including Shark Guardian, the Shark Trust, and Biteback, who have worked tirelessly to throw a spotlight on this barbaric procedure and highlight the need to establish a law to prevent it happening. My thanks also go to Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, for all her hard work in ensuring the Bill’s orderly passage through the Lords.’