Government introduces law banning international shark fin trade


Adapted from article written by by Himanshu Nitnaware
Originally published by GOV.UK (Thu, Jun 29, 2023)

The Shark Fins Act passed into law today banning the international shark fin trade

  • Import and export of detached shark fins banned to promote shark conservation
  • Ban will extend to imported & exported products containing shark fins including tinned shark fin soup
  • Legislation represents another important step in the UK’s journey to delivering better shark conservation globally

The Shark Fins Act passed into law today (29 June), marking a major step in cementing the UK as a global leader in shark conservation.

The Act will ban the import and export of detached shark fins, including all products containing shark fins such as tinned shark fin soup.

Shark finning is the cruel and wasteful practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and discarding the finless body back in the water. The practice has been banned in the UK since 2003 through the Shark Finning Regulation, and since 2009 a ‘Fins Naturally Attached’ policy has been enforced to further combat illegal finning of sharks in UK waters and by UK vessels worldwide.

This Act goes further to build on these existing protections by preventing the trade of detached shark fins and related products obtained using this method.

Many species of shark now face significant population pressures. Out of over 500 species of shark, 143 are listed as ‘Under Threat’ under the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with different species ranging from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Critically Endangered’.

Demand for shark fin products and subsequent overfishing is a significant driver for these pressures. The Act will help protect sharks and reduce the unsustainable overfishing of sharks.

The presence and variety of sharks in marine areas act as a key indicator for ocean health while the animals also play a vital role in marine ecosystems by helping to maintain healthy levels of fish below them in the food chain.

The Act follows our Action Plan for Animal Welfare pledge, and our call for evidence in which most respondents emphasised their strong opposition to shark finning.

Animal Welfare Minister Lord Benyon said:

“Shark finning is an inexcusably cruel practice that has led to the suffering and death of countless sharks. The practice is rightly banned in UK waters, but trade has continued, with serious implications for the future of these magnificent creatures.

“That is why it is so important we ban the import and export of detached shark fins and I welcome the Shark Fins Act as an important step in our commitment to champion the conservation and sustainable management of sharks wherever they are fished.”

Steve Backshall MBE said:

“Today is a huge win for shark conservation and a real cause for celebration. Sharks are beautiful and incredibly complex animals, but sadly frequently misunderstood.

“With this tough ban on the import and export of shark fins now law, we are not only supporting the survival of these ancient creature but also sending a clear message the UK has zero tolerance for this wasteful and destructive trade.”

Ali Hood, Director of Conservation at the Shark Trust, said:

“It’s fantastic news! The UK has long taken a stand against shark finning. Seeing fins naturally attached enshrined into UK law reinforces this stance. And the addition of a ban on the import and export of detached shark fins eases customs checks and enables the UK to hold other countries to the same standard to which we hold ourselves. Our thanks to Christina Rees MP, Baroness Whitchurch, and the many organisations and individuals who have joined this cause over the years.”

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