Today, the Commission is responding to the European citizens’ initiative ‘Stop finning – Stop the trade’ asking the Commission for action to end international trade of loose shark fins.The cruel and illegal practice of ‘finning‘ means fins have been cut off the animal and the shark is thrown back to sea while it may still be alive.The Commission welcomes the initiative and will take action in three areas, including examining the opportunity of taking a legislative initiative to end trade in loose fins, starting an impact assessment and improving relevant statistics. The Commission will also step up the enforcement of EU traceability measures and engage with international partners.
Comprehensive action for sustainability of shark fishing and trade
The EU is committed to the conservation and sustainable management of sharks, as well as of other marine biological resources, both within and outside the EU.The support of more than one million citizens for this initiative is a clear signal and an encouragement to maintain and strengthen the high level of ambition that the Commission has been applying since 2003 when the ‘Shark Finning Regulation‘ was introduced in the EU.
As a response to the European citizens’ initiative, the Commission commits to take further action in three areas:
- to examine the opportunity of taking a legislative measure to end trade in loose shark fins;
- to start without delay preparatory work with a view to launch, by the end of 2023 an impact assessment on the environmental, social and economic consequences of applying the ‘fins naturally attached’ policy to the placing on the EU market of sharks, whether within the EU or for international trade (imports and exports);
- to provide by the end of 2024 more detailed EU’s import and export information to improve statistics on trade in shark products.
The Commission will also enforce better the EU’s already strong traceability measures along the entire value chain: control of fishing at sea, shark products from landing to consumer, consumer information, and prevention and redress of illegal trade. It will ensure the collection and reporting of complete and reliable information by fishermen and Member States’ authorities on all these aspects by working together with Member States and Interpol.
Finally, the Commission will step up the EU’s international action as the trade in shark fins is global. The objectives will be to strengthen the effective implementation of conservation and management measures for shark species and advocate for a worldwide ban of shark finning; encourage the reduction of demand for shark fins; and fight against shark fins trafficking.
The Commission will work with EU Member States, within the framework of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), regional fisheries management organisations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and with third countries bilaterally.
Sharks play a vital role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems and they are vulnerable to human activities.Despite efforts to improve the conservation of sharks in recent years, many populations of sharks are in a critical situation – over one third of shark species are threatened with extinction, i.e. considered critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable.The Commission acknowledges that shark finning is one of the main threats for the conservation of these species.
The European citizens’ initiative “Stop finning – Stop the trade” reflects public concerns about the sustainability of shark fishing and trade worldwide and calls on the Commission to:
- end the trade of loose shark fins in the EU; and
- extend Regulation (EU) No 605/2013 banning shark finning, to also ban the import, export and transit of loose shark fins.
The European citizens’ initiative “Stop finning – Stop the trade” was registered in January 2020 and submitted to the European Commission in January 2023.
The European citizens’ initiative (ECI) was introduced in April 2012 as a means for citizens to set the agenda in a wide range of policy areas.An ECI allows 1 million citizens from at least seven EU Member States to invite the European Commission to propose legal action in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.The ECI is one of the key innovative tools to promote participatory democracy on EU level.
For More Information
European citizens’ initiative – general information about the tool
The EU has for long been a leading force in sustainability of marine resources, including sharks.The European citizens’ initiative is a call for more action. I am pleased to reply to this initiative with several actions that will be important steps towards better protection of sharks, which are fundamental for the health of our ocean.
The European citizens’ initiative is a unique tool, which has demonstrated throughout the 11 years of its existence, that it has its own place and potential to influence EU policies and legislation.This is also the case of this initiative and I thank the organisers for their efforts.