April 27, 2009

Wildlife Conservationists Back New Shark Fin Protection Laws

Wildlife campaigners are welcoming plans for new curbs on the practice of removing fins from live sharks, BBC News reported.

"Finning" involves cutting fins off of living sharks and dumping the low-value carcass at sea.

On Thursday, a meeting in Brussels drew up an action plan on finning, which results in the deaths of the sharks "” which are often exported to China where they are used make shark-fin soup.

The plans for Scottish waters went further, only giving permission in exceptional circumstances, according to Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Environmental groups claim current laws on finning were not strict enough.

"We know that some shark populations are critically endangered, and that is why we are proposing even tougher restrictions in Scotland, sending out a strong message," said Lochhead.

Scotland first issued special fishing permits for taking sharks' fins in 2004. But Anglo-Spanish vessels administered from Ayr and Ullapool are the only Scottish-based boats that request the permits.

The new restrictions would ban the granting of permits.

"We are one of Europe's most important fishing nations and we have a huge interest in maintaining the sustainability of our seas, their stocks and the wider marine ecosystem," said Lochhead.

He welcomed the fact that across Europe commitments are being made to review existing regulations on shark finning, as he strongly believes it's a wasteful and damaging practice.

He added that Scotland is determined to develop robust, workable procedures, proving beyond doubt that it can lead the rest of Europe on the conservation front.

"The shark fin trade encourages unsustainable mortality and unacceptable waste - these proposals will ensure compliance and potentially reduce the requests for permits to near zero," said Ali Hood, director of conservation for the Shark Trust.

She stated that Scotland is setting a fine example to the rest of the UK and Europe as Mr. Lochhead has recognized the urgent need for strict management measures for sharks.

"As well as being an incredibly wasteful practice, with over 90 percent in weight of the shark discarded, many shark species are threatened with extinction," said Louize Hill, marine policy officer at WWF Scotland.

She advised that only effective control and enforcement will protect the vulnerable species and she offered her strong support of the newly proposed measures.

"Once again Scotland looks set to be at the forefront of fisheries conservation," she said.