During the days and weeks following the end of the petition, we waited. And waited, and waited. Things were quiet for a month, so we took action.
We organised and created a table with details of over 100 MPs twitter accounts on. At just the click of a button you can send an automated tweet to your MP asking them to support the petition. We created postcards, a successful tool in sparking the interest of MP in the past. An eye-catching postcard, stating precisely what their constituent requests of them, with their constituents’ (your) signature on, physically in their hand or in their postbox is a powerful thing. Our campaign relied heavily on social media so we continued down this route by creating fact-files for pertinent MPs which were posted on our social media, asking for their support and explaining why their constituents cared about this issue.
We seldom heard back from MPs when we emailed, and their replies to constituents were the same generic copy and pasted text we’d heard too many times before… “Our departure from the EU allows us to consider options to tighten the personal import allowance and improve the traceability of the shark in fin trade in the UK.” and “The UK Government is strongly opposed to shark finning. Shark finning is already banned in UK waters and we continue to support stronger international controls.”
Whilst MPs were saying positive things but dragging their feet, other governmental officials were taking positive steps forward. A call for evidence was issued. This was designed to provide the UK government with a better understand of the scale of the fin trade in the UK, the conservation, economic, social and cultural impacts of potential further restrictions such as banning the import and export of detached shark fins. Essentially, the government issue a bunch of questions in which NGOs, scientists and informed members of the public can submit their answers. This guides future decisions taken by the government so we were pretty excited to see it! We submitted our answers whilst rallying our supporters and allies to submit their own responses too.
Whilst it has always been stated that the petition would be debated at Parliament, the actual location was Westminster Hall. Due to COVID restrictions, Westminster debates were suspended from 14 January 2021 to 7 March 2021, creating further delays. However, the questions in the call for evidence are similar to those that would have been discussed in the petitions debate so to have them explored by government is a great step forward and may surpass the need for a petition debate altogether!
The call for evidence closed on 4th January, we are as yet to hear the government’s response. Tired of waiting and hearing nothing, we took action once again. We contacted Lord Zac Goldsmith, minister for the environment, again but this time we demanded to know what was happening and plans for the future of this petition and shark protection. 115,000 UK citizens, support from 1,000s more overseas along with several more NGOs that believed strongly in the petition will not be ignored.
The response was positive, stating…
We recognise that the demand for shark fins can be a significant driving force behind the capture of sharks and can fuel unsustainable practices.
But more importantly, the call for evidence answers had been discussed, options are being considering and that DEFRA were consulting other relevant government departments on next steps.
We are moving forward slowly, and Shark Guardian will keep pushing. If you’d like to join us then please use this guide to...
email your MP,
tweet your MP (their handle and message is already provided),
send them an encouraging postcard directly to their postbox.
You can get a free downloadable version of the postcard, pay to get a professionally printed postcard sent to you, or if you’d like professionally printed postcards for free then please message us and we’ll happily have some in the post to you at no cost.
The more people contacting their MPs, the more the government are obligated to invest their time in this issue.
A whole-hearted thank you to everyone that has supported the campaign thus far, whether that be through liking a post, sharing, emailing your MP, buying t-shirts or postcards, and of course, signing the petition that started it all.