The EU remains one of the biggest hubs for shark fin trade in the world, but a European Citizens’ Initiative is seeking to end the practice. 

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Citizens across Europe are demanding the end of shark fin trade in the European Union in an initiative to protect the marine species and put a stop to the cruel practice of shark finning. 

More than 100 million sharks are killed globally every year,  tens of millions of which are targeted specifically for their fins. Fins are often the only part of sharks that are harvested, where their bodies are discarded to rot away in the ocean after they are caught. Some even have their fins cut off when they’re still alive. Many shark species have become endangered as a result of poaching and overfishing. However, the animal is crucial to a healthy ocean ecosystem. They help maintain a balanced biodiversity through intimidating potential prey and preventing overpopulation of prey species. 

The practice of shark finning, specifically the removal of fins on board of EU vessels and in EU waters, is currently prohibited, and any sharks that arrive on land must have their fins “naturally attached”. But the European bloc remains one of the largest exporters of fins and a major transit hub for the global fin trade, operations which the public wishes to cease. 

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The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a mechanism that was first introduced in 2007 that enables EU citizens to directly participate in the development of policies and to propose a legal act to the governing body. 

On January 2 2020, citizens registered the ‘Stop Finning – Stop the Trade‘ initiative, calling for the end of fin trade in the EU “including the import, export and transit of fins other than if naturally attached to the animal’s body”. In order for the proposal to be made into a legal act, the initiative requires one million signatories. As of January 18, the initiative is just 47,700 short of the goal. 

If the initiative succeeds, it calls for the EU to develop a new regulation on shark fin trading, including extending the rule on “fins naturally attached” to all trading of sharks and rays in the EU, and for the bloc to take legal action against those who have violated the policy. 

With only weeks left until the initiative ends on January 31, the ECI is in the final push to reach one million signatures. 

Featured image by: Wikimedia Commons