The capture and trade of sharks is rising, with demand for the fins and meat growing. The high value of the fins has led to strong incentives for shark finning. Shark finning refers to the practice of removing any of the fins of a shark (including the tail) while at sea and discarding the remainder of the shark at sea (Memorandum Of Understanding on the conservation of migratory shark, MOU, 2010).

Shark finning is gaining recognition around the world as an unacceptable and illegal practice. It is recognized as illegal by more than 20 countries and most of the Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs) have bans on shark finning 9 (Fowler and Fordham, 2010). Further there are several UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolutions that call for a ban of shark finning.

Since the consultations that led to the MSC decision in 2012, there has been improved scientific understanding and improved fishery management best practice:

  • New management: A 2012 review by Pew Environmental Trust identified 24 countries as having Fin Naturally Attached (FNA) policies. Although the EU has had FNA included in its policies since 2003, derogations applied by some countries allowed separate landing of fins and carcases. In 2013 the Eu eliminated this derogation and now requires FNA for all shark landing (EU Regulation 605/2013 of 12 June 2013). Countries such as Taiwan, India and New Zealand have implemented policy and are committed to elimination of all shark finning. The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (adopted under the CMS) which contains provisions for FNA now has 27 signatories, including recent signatures from all UK overseas territories (2012), Vanuatu (2013) and Columbia (2013).
  • New science: New publications studying variability in fin to carcass ratios have concluded that these ratios are not a reliable way of ensuring that shark finning is not taking place (Santana Garcon et al, 2012; Biery & Pauli, 2012; Passantino, 2013). This information was brought to the attention of the MSC in the Fisheries Standard Review consultations. The EU regulation 605/2013 preamble cites advice from the European Commission's scientific advisory body, STECF, that supports FNA.