Bite-Back’s HQ erupted in celebratory cheers as news came in that the government is set to ban the import and export of shark fins. The announcement is the culmination of six years hard work by the team, from the moment it first exposed the loophole in the law that permitted anyone to bring 20kg of shark fins through our borders, to the series of behind-the-scenes meetings with Lord Zac Goldsmith and DEFRA.
Campaign director, Graham Buckingham, said: “This is the moment we’ve all been working towards since 2015. Our tireless No Fin To Declare campaign ticked all the environmental, emotional and political boxes, creating a argument that was impossible to ignore. It’s been a long, hard slog but we’ve achieved something that will help safeguard shark populations forever. And that feels amazing. It’s an incredibly happy day.”
The news has also been celebrated by high profile supporters including wildlife TV presenter Steve Backshall MBE and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who both endorsed the charity’s campaign, calling for a post-Brexit ban of the personal import allowance of shark fins to the UK.
Before Britain left the EU it had been bound by outdated legislation that permits anyone to carry up to 20kg of dried shark fins into and across European borders as part of their personal import allowance. Sadly, this loophole has been exploited by the shark fin trade to legally ‘smuggle’ fins undetected for decades.
Graham said: “This news will come as a blow to a global industry that is forcing sharks closer to the brink of extinction. We’re enormously grateful to the government for using Brexit to side-step this archaic EU legislation. We hope and believe this announcement will encourage other European countries to impose similar constraints.”
It’s estimated that global fishing fleets hunt and kill 73 million sharks every year. As a result one in four shark species is now either endangered or threatened forcing populations of iconic shark species including great whites, hammerheads, oceanic whitetips and threshers to a tiny fraction of those recorded 50 years ago.
Over the past decade shark fins — used as the title ingredient in shark fin soup — have become one of the most valuable seafood items in the world. In turn this has created a ‘marine gold rush’ to catch and separate sharks from their lucrative fins.
Shark fin soup is widely regarded as a controversial dish. Not only are the cartilaginous strands from the fins tasteless, fishermen are known to cut the fins off the sharks they catch and thrown the rest of the shark overboard to die.
Alongside the huge environmental impact of the personal import allowance, Bite-Back also highlighted that no other item on the ‘green channel’ list of items compared in terms of volume or value. In fact a 20kg consignment of fins is enough to make 705 bowls of shark fin soup and has a black market value of around £3,600.
Spain, France, Portugal and the UK all feature in the top 20 shark fishing nations in the world. Remarkably though, for years, the UK has exported around 25 tonnes of shark fins to Spain for processing and onward sale to the Far East.
However, it will now soon become illegal to import or export individual shark fins making it extremely costly and inconvenient to buy and sell a product that is contributing to the decimation of vital shark populations.