On Wednesday, the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament will consider a ban on shark finning. Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, removing its fins, and dumping the still living shark back into the sea to slowly bleed to death.
Shark fins are used in shark fin soup and for traditional medicines. The number of sharks that are killed for their fins is uncertain, but estimates range from 26 to 73 million sharks are finned each year. The value of the shark fin trade is more than US$1 billion per year.
Removing the fins from a shark and throwing the body back in the water also makes it difficult for fisheries managers to know which species the fin comes from. A recent study using DNA tests showed that endangered shark species show up in shark fin soup.
The Fisheries Committee is considering a ban on shark finning, rather than shark fins. If passed, sharks could still be caught and used for their fins. The whole shark would have to be brought ashore and then finned. While some places, like California and Toronto, have banned shark finning, European nations are some of the largest providers of shark fins to Asia, so reducing finning there would have a significant effect on shark conservation.
To find out how to help ban shark finning, check out the Shark Alliance’s page on the European Parliament.
Shark fins at the market via Shutterstock