The European Commission is proposing to end a practice which results in the death of large quantities of sharks by prohibiting shark finning which involves the removal of fins and the discarding of the remainder of the shark at sea.

The effects of this practice, encouraged by the strong international market that exists for shark fins, is having serious effects on several shark populations. The Commission proposes, therefore, to prohibit this practice within all EU waters and for all EU vessels wherever they fish beyond EU waters.

It recognises, however, the possibility for a legitimate targeted shark fishery involving full use of the catch. "We are committed to better integrate environmental protection into the Common Fisheries Policy. We must act and end a practice that poses a serious threat to several shark stocks", Franz Fischler, Commissioner responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries said. This proposal now goes to the Fisheries Council for decision.

Given the problems involved in the identification of species on the basis of removed fins, the Commission proposes to apply this prohibition to all Elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, rays…). This prohibition would apply to all types of fishing in EU waters. In line with the EU commitment to stock conservation in all waters where its vessels operate, this practice would also be banned for all EU vessels fishing beyond EU waters. The Commission believes that this approach will encourage the adoption of the measure in Regional Fisheries Organisations.

Finning would, however, be allowed if the removal of fins were part of a process to make more efficient use of all the shark parts on board. In this case, the Member States concerned would be required to issue and manage a special fishing permit for this purpose. To ensure that all parts of the shark are kept on board, those issued with special permits would also be required to enter all relevant data in a logbook.