Fisheries minister Richard Benyon has been swimming with sharks to highlight his desire to tighten the European ban on “finning”.
Mr Benyon took the plunge into a tank of sharks at Sealife London Aquarium to launch an initiative from the Plymouth-based Shark Trust to close loopholes in the EU ban on slicing off shark fins and discarding the bodies at sea.
Under the ban, Spain and Portugal continue to cut off fins from sharks at sea, and land fins and bodies separately according to an agreed weight ratio which allows fishermen to land far more fins than carcasses, the Shark Trust said.
The UK backs a proposal to close the loophole so that all sharks must be landed with their fins still attached. Preventing finning at sea would reduce the amount of sharks caught because complete sharks take up more storage space than just fins, and make it easier to check that fishermen are not catching prohibited species such as porbeagles.
It would also reduce the waste associated with finning, which provides countries such as China with fins for soup while the rest of the shark is thrown, unused and sometimes still alive, into the seaThe UK has led efforts to tighten EU rules.
Mr Benyon said: “We oppose shark finning and the ban that is currently in place is far too lenient. The UK already requires all sharks to be landed with their fins attached and now Europe needs to follow our lead and listen to the 165,000 people who petitioned for a stronger ban.”
Shark Trust director of conservation Ali Hood said: “Only two EU member states, Spain and Portugal, continue to remove shark fins at sea and it is time for Europe to bring its regulation in line with other nations who have adopted more effective management regimes.”