European countries dominate half of Asian shark fin trade, report reveals | European Union

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European countries sell so many shark fins to Asia that they dominate nearly half of the trade, a study has found.

Shark populations continue to decline, driven by the global shark fin trade. Last year, scientists discovered that a third of shark and ray species had been overfished to near extinction, jeopardizing the health of entire ocean ecosystems and the food security of many countries.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) analyzed nearly two decades of customs data in three major Asian trading centers from 2003 to 2020. It found that while the main market for fin-related products is in Asia, the EU countries – led by Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, France and Italy are important players in supplying this legal market. China is a major supplier of shark fins but was not covered by the study.

Spain was by far the main source of shark fin imports to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, supplying 51,795 tonnes, from 2003 to 2020, an annual average of 2,877 tonnes, ahead of Singapore, with 17,006 tons, according to the report. More than 50% of the global shark fin trade takes place in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan Province, the report said.

Barbara Slee, the author of the IFAW report, said: “Small or large, coastal or high seas, shark species are disappearing as piecemeal management efforts have failed to halt their decline.” .

Small sharks in the fish market of Catania in Sicily. A third of shark and ray species have almost disappeared. Photography: Memitina/Getty/iStockphoto

She called on the EU to play a leading role in limiting its trade in sharks to protect them from extinction. IFAW wants all sharks in trade to be listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which would provide them with increased protection and monitoring.

EU countries are banned from “shark finning”, a practice banned in many jurisdictions where the fins are removed while the shark is still alive, with the fish then discarded. But the landing and sale of whole sharks is authorized, except for species listed by Cites.

“Effective fisheries management is often not put in place until a population is very low or threatened, but when it is in place, shark populations have been shown to recover,” said said Slee. “As our report shows, the EU is a key player in global shark markets and has an important responsibility in adopting sustainability requirements.”

Only a quarter of shark products are subject to import and export controls that prove they are of legal and sustainable origin, Slee said.

The study, Supply and Demand: The EU’s role in the global shark trade, found that 188,368 tonnes of shark fin products were imported into Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan Province between 2003 and 2020. The EU was responsible for 28% or 53,407 tonnes. Since 2017, as trade declined, the share of EU exports to these countries increased to 45% in 2020.

Stan Shea, from the ocean conservation group BLOOM Association Hong Kong, and co-author of the report, said: “While many are placing the burden of change on consumer countries, primarily in Asia, also responsible for declining shark populations , all countries with internationally operating fishing fleets and trade in shark products.

The report also found data discrepancies in import and export figures, suggesting possible misreporting in the shark fin trade.

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