Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – Protecting oceans around the world.
While shark finning is contrary to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, as mentioned above, these are not legal requirements – merely recommendations – and thus cannot be enforced.
Each country with a coastline is responsible for laws and regulations pertaining to fishing in their waters – within their territorial area and within a lesser extent, their exclusive economic zones. And, a number of countries have varying degrees of shark-finning legislation.
In some cases, only whole sharks may be landed. In other cases, amounts are banned by a rule that a vessel may not land shark fins that weigh more than 5 percent of the “dressed” weight of the sharks: that is, the weight of the carcass after the removal of the head and innards.
65 countries have banned finning – many more need to be encouraged to enact legislation.
Countries/Regions with Shark Finning Regulations:
Australia (most States & Territories)
Seychelles (foreign vessels only)
South Africa (in national waters only)
Many of these regulations are weak – or are open to interpretation – and are being exploited. The following countries have stronger legislation, requiring shark fins to be partially or fully attached to the shark carcass in some or all of their fisheries:
And, all of the above laws prohibit the act of shark finning – not shark fishing. At this point, banning shark finning alone does not solve the problem, as sharks are still being fished at unsustainable rates. Often when laws are created, shark finning still continues. What is needed is a ban on shark fishing, not just a ban on shark finning.
The largely un-policed international seas represent another issue. Thanks to shortage of resources, many countries, particularly those economically challenged like Columbia, Ecuador, and Oman, that do have shark finning regulations don’t aggressively police their waters – or chose to turn a blind eye. Meanwhile ships from wealthier shipping fleets from across the world plunder their last remaining sharks. Clearly, we cannot rely on the laws alone.
Sadly, it isn’t just shark finning. The world is battling with Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing globally across all species. Costing the world between $4 – $9 billion a year, not to mention the high price of species extinction and ecosystem destruction, IUU fishing accounts for 30 – 40% of the global catch. This is devastating for the oceans and for the planet, particularly to some of the poorest countries in the world where dependency on fishing is a critical part of survival.
Fins from all over the world for sale at a distributor. Photo: Julie Andersen, sharkangels.comIn Mozambique alone, it is anticipated IUU fishing accounts for $40 million a year in lost income. With 80% of Mozambicans living below the poverty level, it isn’t surprising that shark finning is running rampant. Fins from a single shark can fetch up to US$120, a few months’ income, paid by some savvy businessmen from Hong Kong who also provide the gear. Consider a small dugout boat can land as many as 1,000 sharks a year and you realize the extent of the problem. The word is out. Shark fins mean big money and fishermen everywhere, desperate to feed their families, are heeding the call.
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