The UK is to ban the import and export of detached shark fins and products containing them, international ocean minister Lord Goldsmith has announced, meaning that the UK will go further than any other country in working for an end to the practice of shark finning.

The trade ban will extend to shark fin products including tinned shark fin soup.

The UK has been pressing for stronger international action to protect sharks against unsustainable fishing practices. Many species of shark face significant population pressures. Out of over 500 species of shark, 143 are listed as ‘under threat’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – with different species ranging from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘critically endangered’. The presence and variety of sharks in marine areas acts as a key indicator for ocean health, and they play a vital role in marine ecosystems.

Demand for shark fin products is a significant driver for these pressures, alongside overfishing. Banning detached fins from being brought into the UK will help to protect populations of species such as the endangered short fin mako shark and the overfished blue shark.

Lord Goldsmith said: “Shark finning is indescribably cruel and causes thousands of sharks to die terrible deaths. It is also unforgivably wasteful. The practice is rightly banned in UK waters, but the trade continues, with serious implications for the future of these magnificent creatures.

“That is why we are now banning the import both of detached shark fins and shark fin products. Our action will not only help boost shark numbers, it will send a clear message that we do not support an industry that is forcing many species to the brink of extinction.

“The UK is a global leader in marine protection, with our ‘blue belt’ programme protecting an area of ocean around British overseas territories the size of India, as well as plans to pilot Highly Protected Marine Areas in our domestic waters.

“The UK is also leading a global campaign, supported by over 80 countries, for at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean to be protected by 2030.”

Ali Hood, director of conservation for the Shark Trust, said: “The Shark Trust welcomes the prohibition in trade in detached fins as the next action in a history of proactive moves by the UK government, which supported leaving fins naturally attached as best practice years before adoption of the policy by the EU in 2013.

“It is encouraging to see the UK addressing the fin trade as an element of overfishing – the principal threat to sharks and rays. And we’re noting that the UK is ramping up its engagement in domestic and international shark conservation issues, currently championing the science-based advice for a prohibition on mako in North Atlantic high-seas fisheries.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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