Just days after Bite-Back announced its part in a Trading Standards raid on London’s Royal China Club that uncovered a quantity of illegally imported shark fins, the shark and marine conservation charity has revealed the little-known-but-shocking fact that individuals travelling to the UK have a personal import allowance of 20kg of shark fin.
This personal import allowance has been described by Bite-Back as a ‘back door’ for the unregulated introduction of shark fins to the UK restaurant trade. The charity now plans to lobby for a change in the law.
Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “This chronic and arbitrary law makes the import of shark’s fin to the UK as easy as bringing across a litre of spirits and 200 cigarettes – it’s a travesty for the oceans. If our campaign to make Britain shark fin-free is to succeed we need to urgently close this loophole.”
Officials at two UK Border Inspection Posts along with Trading Standards officers have confirmed that it’s ‘almost impossible’ to determine whether shark fins arriving in the UK in personal luggage is then sold commercially.
While it’s not illegal for a restaurant to sell shark fin soup in Britain the fins it uses must be traceable to an approved supplier. Cooking with fins brought to the UK through the personal importation allowance route is considerably less expensive and therefore more lucrative for the restaurant.
Bite-Back is now in meetings with DEFRA – the department of the environment, foods and rural affairs – to understand how the law can be changed in favour of sharks and the marine environment.