The Shark Trust is celebrating as The Shark Fins Act passes into UK law, effectively reinforcing existing shark finning regulation through the broad application of global best practice.
“The Shark Fins Act now enshrines Fins Naturally Attached into UK law,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. The Act not only applies to UK fisheries but also prohibits the import and export of detached shark fins, whether loose or in products. And whilst not an all-out ban on shark fin consumption and trade, Hood says, “this creates a more challenging environment for would-be traders, simplifying customs checks, and enabling the UK to hold other countries to the same standards to which we hold ourselves.”
Earlier this month The Shark Fins Act completed its passage through both Houses of Westminster supported unanimously by MPs and Peers from all sides. The Shark Trust has engaged in proceedings with interest, acknowledging this historic step in a 20 year journey from the first Shark Finning Regulation in 2003.
Shark finning (the removal of shark fins at sea and the discard of the carcass overboard) was banned in Europe and as a result the UK in 2003, following a campaign championed by UK Members of the European Parliament. In 2009 the UK took steps to further tighten shark finning regulation requiring sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached. The EU took a further four years to adopt equivalent legislation (2013), finally prohibiting the landing of detached fins by EU vessels.
Christina Rees MP introduced the Act to The House of Commons in 2022 as a Private Members Bill, which successfully garnered cross-party support. The Bill then passed to ‘the other House’ in January 2023, where Baroness Jones of Whitchurch led the debate in the Lords. The Peers demonstrated a clear grasp of the issues involved, and shark finning and the fin trade were discussed as a facet of overfishing, which is widely accepted as the greatest threat to sharks.
“I’m pleased to have played a small part in bringing an end to this cruel and wasteful practice,” said Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, “but the real thanks should go to the shark and marine conservation charities who did so much to highlight the need for a ban.”
Christina Rees, MP for Neath and Port Talbot added, “It has been a great privilege to take this hugely important Act through the House of Commons, and I am delighted to see it receive Royal Assent.”
Rees continued saying, “I want to put on record my thanks to campaigners in the marine conservation charities, including the Shark Trust, Shark Guardian, and Bite-Back, who have worked tirelessly to highlight the need to establish a law. My thanks also go to Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, for all her hard work in ensuring the Act’s orderly passage through the Lords.”
“This Act represents years of work and is the culmination of the leadership role taken by the UK on shark finning regulation. Banning the import and export of detached fins is a important addition to the fins naturally attached policy.” Hood went on to say, “The Shark Trust is pleased to have been able to play its part, providing briefings and expertise at many junctures. Massive thanks to all the organisations and members of the public who have so passionately campaigned for tighter finning regulation over the years.”
To read the full DEFRA Statement click here
For more about the Shark Trust visit their website
Project SIARC through to the finals of The National Lottery Awards
Project SIARC has been nominated alongside 16 other projects from across the UK to be named National Lottery Project of the Year.
The marine environment in Wales is teeming with life; beneath the often-murky waters are little understood species of shark, skate and ray (elasmobranchs) of conservation importance.
Project SIARC is catalysing links between fishers, researchers, communities and government to collaborate and safeguard elasmobranchs and support a green recovery in Wales.
“We are so grateful for this nomination – it’s thanks to all of our wonderful communities, partners and volunteers working with us to help safeguard and celebrate sharks, skates and rays in Wales”, commented Project SIARC Technical Specialist and regular Scubaverse contributor Jake Davies.
For more information about Project SIARC, visit https://www.projectsiarc.com/.
Silent Reef Keepers: The Fight to Save the Caribbean Reef Shark
The Kingdom of the Netherlands will ask for increased protection for the Caribbean reef shark during next month’s Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPs) on Aruba. Caribbean reef sharks play a critical role in maintaining a healthy reef ecosystem and building resilience within the oceans. This increased protection is critical for ensuring a sustainable future for this iconic species.
The Caribbean Sea is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and a dazzling array of marine life. Among the charismatic inhabitants of this underwater paradise is the Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezii), a species that plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of coral reef ecosystems. In the Dutch Caribbean, these apex predators face mounting threats, but there is hope on the horizon. At the upcoming Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPs), the Kingdom of the Netherlands will seek increased protection for these magnificent creatures by listing this species on Annex III of the SPAW Protocol. Annex III includes plant and animal species which require additional protection to ensure this species is able to adequately recover their populations in the Wider Caribbean Region.
Caribbean reef sharks thrive in warm, tropical waters of the Caribbean region, with a distribution range that stretches from Florida to Brazil. This species is one of the most encountered reef shark species throughout the whole Caribbean Sea. Growing up to 3m (9.8ft) in length, this shark is one of the largest apex predators in the reef ecosystem and is at the top of the marine food web, having only a few natural predators.
In addition to being of great economic value, as shark diving is a major draw for divers from around the world, this species is also critical for maintaining balance within the reef ecosystem. Their presence helps regulate the population of smaller prey species, which in turn, prevents overgrazing on seagrass beds and coral reefs and eliminates sick or weak fish from the population. This balance is essential for maintaining the health and diversity of the entire coral reef.
Despite their ecological and economic significance, Caribbean reef sharks in the Caribbean face numerous threats that have led to a population reduction estimated to be between 50–79% over the past 29 years. In the (Dutch) Caribbean this is mainly caused by:
Habitat Degradation: The degradation of coral reefs and seagrass beds due to climate change, pollution, and coastal development has a direct impact on the availability of prey for these sharks. Loss of habitat reduces their ability to find food and shelter.
Overfishing: Overfishing poses one of the most immediate threats to Caribbean reef sharks. They are often caught incidentally in commercial fisheries, where fishermen are targeting other species, or intentionally, where they are sought after for their fins, used in shark fin soup.
A Call for Increased Protection
There are different organizations and individuals working to protect sharks and their habitats in the Dutch Caribbean. A significant milestone was the establishment of protected areas such as the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary between Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius. Another milestone was in 2019 when the Dutch government adopted an International Shark Strategy. The strategy sets out which protective and management actions for sharks and rays are to be taken by the government in all seas and oceans where the Netherlands has influence (including the Dutch Caribbean). Additional efforts are still needed to create more marine protected areas, enhance enforcement, reduce pollution in the ocean, and promote sustainable fishing practices. These species know no (political) boundaries and their protection requires broadscale conservation efforts within the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.
The Caribbean reef shark is a species of paramount importance to the (Dutch) Caribbean’s coral reefs. With the extra protection being requested during the next COPS meeting in Aruba, there is hope that this species will have a healthy future. By recognizing their ecological significance and the challenges they face, we can work together to ensure a brighter future for the Caribbean Reef Shark in the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.
The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports science communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature-related scientific information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and the press. This article contains the results from several scientific studies but the studies themselves are not DCNA studies. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.
Photo + photo credit: Jim Abernethy-all rights reserved
For more information, please contact: research@DCNAnature.org
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