Brexit brings ‘new hope’ for tougher shark conservation measures as more than 115,000 people sign a petition¹ calling on the government to ban the personal importation of shark fins into the UK.
Right now EU legislation allows anyone to carry up to 20kg of dried shark fins into each member state including the UK.
The volume of fins is enough to make 705 bowls of soup and has a black market value of around £3,600. Yet, astonishingly, the same personal importation allowance ruling bans anyone from bringing cheese or dried meat through borders and also limits individuals to just one litre of spirits and 200 cigarettes.
Chef, campaigner and Bite-Back supporter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “The 20kg personal importation allowance for shark fins has created a legal but unregulated trade that is pushing many shark populations closer to extinction. It must be stopped.”
Now, with just a little over three months before the UK leaves the EU, our No Fin To Declare campaign is all set to increase pressure on key government decision makers to ban the cruel and outdated loophole from the start of next year.
Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “Brexit represents a chance for the UK to override this senseless and appalling statute that facilitates the legal yet unregulated movement of shark fins. A decision in favour of closing this loophole will put the UK at the forefront of the global conservation movement to protect sharks.”
Sadly the high value of shark fins has prompted a ‘marine gold rush’ as fishermen race to catch sharks and separate the fins from the carcass, often discarding the body at sea. Once the fins are dried it’s difficult to tell fins from an endangered shark apart from those derived from more abundant species.
Every year around 73 million sharks are killed every year with millions targeted purely for their fins to be used as the title ingredient in shark fin soup. It’s a rate that has seen populations of iconic sharks like the great white, the hammerhead and oceanic whitetip fall by 90% in the past 60 years in some parts of the world. In fact it’s been predicted that, without intervention, big sharks could disappear from the oceans by 2048.
Wildlife expert, TV presenter and Bite-Back patron, Steve Backshall MBE, said: “Too often sharks are portrayed as villains. But what many people don’t appreciate is that sharks are vital to the health of the oceans and the health of the oceans is vital to life on earth. That’s why I’m keen for people to understand that, when it comes to protecting sharks, there’s something in it for everyone.”
Back in 2016 we presented over 156,000 signatures to Brussels calling for a ban across all 28 member states but the request was dismissed. In 2020 we’re determined to ‘make Brexit work for sharks’.
Graham said: “There are half a dozen explicit reasons why this ruling must change. The public has been loud and clear on the topic but our focus now must be on encouraging ministers to give their full support when this petition is debated in January next year.”
The next scheduled meeting for the team is with Lord Goldsmith, the minister responsible for addressing climate change, biodiversity and the oceans.
While many people don’t consider the UK a contributor to the global shark fin trade it’s ranked in the top 20 shark fishing nations² in the world. Alarmingly, in the past two years Britain exported 50 tonnes of shark fins³ worth millions of pounds to Hong Kong via Spain.