From May to September 2020 Shark Guardian successfully lead a UK Government Petition campaign to ban shark fin importations into the UK. The petition ended on the 11th September 2020 with 115,380 signatures.
Now the UK Government is actively investigating evidence to protect endangered shark species.
Greater protections for sharks will be considered through a new call for evidence issued by the government. This allows the government to ask scientists, NGOs and informed members of the public to provide information on the scale of the shark fin trade in the UK, how to help reduce the import and export of shark fins and protect the world’s sharks. We believe this has been in direct result of the recent Shark Guardian campaign and petition to ban shark fin importations into the UK.
The UK Government has stated, in response to the petition:
The UK has a strong track record in marine conservation and has been pressing for stronger international action to protect sharks against unsustainable fishing practices and shark finning, which is the practice of removing a shark’s fins at sea and discarding the finless body back into the water. The government is now seeking additional evidence to ensure that appropriate protection is in place for all shark species and to inform future policy on protecting marine wildlife.
The call for evidence will guide the governments future legislative changes through understanding the conservation, economic, social and cultural impacts of potential further restrictions such as banning the import and export of detached shark fins.
The greatest threat to sharks is overfishing, driven by demand for shark products. Wild populations of shark, skates and ray species have declined rapidly and species such as the scalloped hammerhead and angelshark are now considered critically endangered.
Shark Guardian intends to fully participate in this call for evidence and will be encouraging all relevant NGOs, scientists and informed members of the public to submit responses too. This is a chance to make your voice heard!
International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith said:
Shark finning involves slicing the fins off living sharks that are then tossed back into the sea to die painful deaths. It is an extraordinarily barbaric practice, and has been banned in the UK for nearly 20 years. But the UK still imports shark fin products and therefore may still be inadvertently contributing to the practice.
At the end of the Transition Period and as a fully independent nation, we will have far more freedom to introduce measures to protect endangered species – on land and in the ocean. So we have launched this call for evidence to identify the best options to protect these incredible animals and to continue leading the way on shark conservation.
Samuel Stone, Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture at the Marine Conservation Society said:
We welcome the government’s desire to increase protections for endangered shark species and this call for evidence to better understand the impact of the shark fin trade in the UK. Despite the abhorrent practice being banned by most fishing nations, including the UK and EU, illegal shark finning remains a significant problem in several fisheries around the world. This undermines attempts to improve the management and recovery of shark species and it’s important that the government explores all avenues available to them to help stamp out the practice.
It will be important to explore how efforts can best distinguish between trade linked to illegal shark finning versus the legitimate trade of shark products from potentially well managed fisheries. Whilst the UK trade of shark fins may be relatively small on the global stage, efforts made here may have the potential to make a significant impact. We look forward to seeing the additional evidence and recommendations produced by this review.
There is hope, and positive changes have historically been made.
The UK Government has added that strict trade controls are already in place for certain species of sharks under the CITES, which prohibits or requires trade to be carefully regulated. The UK also played a leading role in successfully listing an additional 18 shark species under CITES in August 2019.
The UK is leading in marine conservation efforts to protect the world’s ocean and has already set up a ‘Blue Belt’ of protected waters nearly twice the size of England including 41 Marine Conservation Zones.
In September 2019 the UK government also launched a Global Ocean Alliance of countries that work will together to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 (30 by 30).
What can you do to help?
We need you now more than ever. As British citizens or UK residents you can write to your MPs asking them to support the petition to completely ban the UK import of shark fins.
Write/email your MP using our template of facts and information here.
You can send your MP a postcard! You can buy the Shark Guardian Finspire postcards or download your own to print here.
Call for Evidence: Original Press Release