Making the rounds of many of the news outlets today is some good news offered by the European Union. Earlier this month, meeting in Brussels, the European Commission, siding with the opinions of 27 member nation fishery ministers, proposed amending EU regulations on shark fishing by recommending a total ban on shark finning both within EU waters and by all EU-registered vessels worldwide. Today, the Council of the European Union gave its approval of the measure.
While EU regulations have already prohibited shark finning, the actual execution was riddled with loopholes and special permits, all originally intended to promote commercial shark fishing management. However, monitoring and enforcement was difficult to attain and so, ultimately, a complete ban was deemed best.
As good as this all sounds, in reality it is an incremental step. Properly permitted vessels will still be able to take sharks, but they will be required to land them whole - fins attached. This is a disadvantage to the boat operators as whole shark carcasses will fill up a boat's hold with low value meat compared to the more highly prized shark fin. It could very well prove to be enough of an inducement for many boats to move out of the shark fin business altogether, finding it no longer economically worthwhile.
The proposed ban represents both a move by the EU to better monitor the shark fishing industry and to put the squeeze on what is viewed as an industry that would eventually collapse due to declining shark populations. While Asia is often criticized for its growing market demand for shark fin, it is the EU that happens to be the largest exporter of shark fins worldwide. As an example, according to some reports, the hammerhead shark has all but become extinct in the Mediterranean.
The EU fishery ministers are also seeking support for a measure that would ban the practice of discarding fish that do not meet qualifications or are commercially undesirable. What they are proposing is a major assault on bycatch. In essence, if you caught it, you keep it. And it could ultimately force fishing vessels to either utilize any and all approaches that would minimize bycatch (better fishing techniques, nets or hooks) or seek markets for catches that may not be as profitable. As reported by the Associated Press, the European Commission says that up to half of the whitefish and 70 percent of the flatfish caught by fisheries is discarded.
This proposal faces some stiff resistance from several member nations, particularly France and Spain, so time will tell as to whether it succeeds, But for now, the shark fin ban seems to be on track. The proposal awaits a first reading in the European Parliament before being formalized into law.
A positive step in a comprehensive, but complicated, strategy for shark conservation - addressing the dealers of shark fin products by simplifying shark fishery management policy and, in so doing, indirectly hitting them where it hurts most: the bottom line.
Source: Boston News
Source: Courthouse News Service