Today Bite-Back launched a campaign to end the personal importation of shark fins to Europe. The charity’s No Fin To Declare campaign is challenging the EU law that allows individuals travelling to Europe to carry 20kg of dried shark fins—enough to make 705 bowls of shark fin soup.
The personal import legislation is best known as the law that stops passengers on long-haul flights from bringing dried meats, dairy products or more than one litre of spirits and 200 cigarettes to the UK.
Investigations by the charity suggest that shark fins arriving in the UK via this loophole are then sold on the black market to the restaurant trade for around £175 per kilo, or roughly £3,500 per suitcase.
Shark fins are one of the most expensive fish products in the world and their high value is the biggest incentive for 125 nations to fish for sharks. Since the fins are worth more than the meat, many sharks suffer the cruel practice of ‘finning’ at sea when the dorsal and pectoral fins are hacked off and the body thrown back in to the sea, still alive.
Relentless fishing for sharks recently prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature declare that 25% of all shark species are now threatened with extinction.
Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “This outdated and careless piece of legislation doesn’t stands up to scrutiny. No other food item on the personal import allowance list compares in terms of volume and value. It’s outrageous to think that Customs officials will seize and destroy a ham and cheese sandwich yet they’ll wave through someone with 20kg of shark fins. The limit is wrong, it’s open to abuse and, if sharks stand a chance of survival, it needs to be banned.”
Bite-Back’s European petition aims end the black market trade in fins destined for the restaurant trade all 28 EU countries and combat the illegal movement of fins taken from endangered sharks such as the great white, hammerhead and oceanic whitetip.
Already the chef and TV presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has shown his support for the No Fin to Declare campaign. He said: “Demand for shark fin soup is responsible for the decimation of shark populations all across the world. This personal import allowance is how almost all shark fins reach the restaurant trade—and it’s insane. Twenty kilos of dried shark fins represents around 25 dead sharks, and is enough to make hundreds of bowls of soup. It’s a legal but unregulated trade that’s pushing many shark populations closer to extinction—and it must be stopped.”
Buckingham said: “Regardless of whether you’re a shark fan, everyone instinctively knows that this legislation is wrong. Sharks are the lions and leopards of the ocean and deserve better than this.”