LONDON, 18 July 2022 – Last Friday, British Labour MP Christina Rees introduced her Private Member's Bill into the British parliament to ban the import and export of shark fins into the United Kingdom. This follows a successful Shark Guardian campaign that was started in 2020 which saw over 115,000 people sign a UK government petition by September of that year. In May 2021, the UK government launched its ‘Action Plan for Animal Welfare’ to include the import and export ban of shark fin into the UK.
Shark Guardian applauds Christina Rees MP for introducing her bill to protect sharks which passed its Second Reading in Parliament on Friday. Shark Guardian was watching from the Public Gallery in the House of Commons and it was inspiring to watch the British Labour and Conservative Parties working so well together in a bipartisan spirit to pass this important shark fin import and export legislation.
"We believe this ban will have a huge and important knock-on effect in Europe, as the European Union will see the UK's new law and be compelled to pass a similar law to ban the import and export of shark fin through its borders too. That's important because Spain is by far the single biggest exporter of frozen shark fins to Hong Kong, a city which has for decades been the epicentre of this cruel and unsustainable trade. If the supply chain to Hong Kong, and by extension China, can be cut, then global shark populations that are threatened with extinction today, can be offered a new lease of hope tomorrow."
- MP Christina Rees
To a largely empty chamber of around just ten Conservative and five Labour MPs, Christina Rees MP spoke first to introduce her bill. She spoke broadly about the biology of sharks as well as the various types of shark that can be found in UK waters such as; blue sharks, basking sharks and Greenland sharks. Christina Rees, who is also a vegan, talked about her experiences growing up as an animal lover in a coastal community in Wales, and how her own personal interactions with sharks shaped her. She mentioned how the global shark fin trade is cruel and wasteful, and how scientists estimate that around 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, and how this must be stopped. After a quick overview of each of the three clauses of her tightly worded Bill, which was mostly written by a stellar team of civil servants at the British government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), and based on an extensive public consultation that began in December 2020, other MPs lined up to make speeches in support of the proposed Bill. Crucially, not a single MP spoke against the Bill. MPs that spoke in favour of the Bill included; Darren Henry (Broxtowe, Conservative), Jill Mortimer, (Hartlepool, Conservative), Mark Eastwood, (Dewsbury, Conservative), Edward Argar (Charnwood, Conservative), Felicity Buchan, (Kensington, Conservative), Dean Russell, (Watford, Conservative) and Ruth Jones (Newport West, Labour).
Christina Rees MP then thanked the MPs present in the chamber that spoke, and the Bill was finally put to a vote by the House of Commons Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing MP. British parliamentary rules state that if a single 'noe' vote is cast against a Public Member's Bill, then that Bill must automatically fail. Thankfully, on Friday that didn't happen.
Steve Double MP, the UK's Under-Secretary for the Defra, reinforced the British government's important support for Christina Rees MP's Private Member's Bill, saying that, "[…] shark finning is a cruel and wasteful practice. This Bill will be a significant step in demonstrating the UK's global leadership in shark conservation and animal welfare and in protecting our natural environment.”
It is now highly unlikely that the Bill will not succeed, but there are still three more steps until the Bill is passed into law. The first is a Bills committee meeting, which will likely be held in September. The second step is for the Bill to be vetted by the House of Lords. The final step, if the Lords assent, and which is normally a mere formality, will be the Third Reading of the Bill and that usually takes place around three months after the Bills committee meeting. This will be the exact time at which the Bill becomes an enforceable law, which is likely to be around Christmas or New Year. The tricky stage was on Friday, so we can now consider the Bill to be in safe territory. Essentially, if even a single MP had said ‘no’ on Friday, the Bill would have failed. Luckily for sharks, many MPs were wrapped up in the Conservative Party leadership contest, or out enjoying the summer sunshine.
The Bill and all other relevant publications from the UK government can be read here: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3207/publications
The various MP speeches can be watched on the UK Parliament website here:
Watch from (12:35:56) to (13:40:15) to see the entire one hour five minutes debate Follow the news and further updates on our Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/Shark_Guardian/status/1548064527400329220?s=20&t=7tlpz2lzPKvXOMsAhfB69Q
https://twitter.com/Shark_Guardian/status/1548074331845959681?s=20&t=7tlpz2lzPKvXOMsAhfB69Q BIG THANK YOU to DEFRA and Christina Rees MP! You are our latest Shark Guardians!!