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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Good news on Shark Finning and Seal products

A couple of bits of marine conservation news that slipped by last week.

Firstly, the European Parliament has voted to ban the sale of seal products in the 27-nation EU in light of continuing outrage over the clubbing of seal pups in places like Canada.

The EU law, which would exempt seal products from traditional hunters among Canada's Arctic Inuit community, still requires the agreement of EU ministers to take effect but it is likely to be imposed by next year.

Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy, (at last a Labour politician who has done something right this year) who helped draft the rules said: "The vast majority of people across Europe are horrified by the cruel clubbing to death of seals and this law will finally put an end to the cruel cull."

In the EU, seals are culled on a much smaller scale in Sweden, Finland and the UK, mainly for fish stock management. The ban will not apply to such culling.

More importantly, Europe’s threatened sharks have been thrown a lifeline as the European Council announced their conclusions and priority actions regarding the Community Plan of Action for Sharks.

The Community Plan of Action for Sharks (CPOA) prioritise the need for a prompt review of the shark finning legislation and identify an urgent need to improve data collection to aid species management and conservation.

While shark finning is banned in Europe rules allow vessels to apply for a permit to remove shark fins at sea. Currently, five countries issue Special Fishing Permits: Spain, Portugal, Germany, Lithuania and the UK (where 80 tonnes of shark fins are landed per year).

The Shark Trust said it would continue to advocate for the UK Government to cease the provision of these permits.

Meanwhile, Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said the plans for Scottish waters went further, only giving permission in exceptional circumstances.

Mr Lochhead said: "We know that some shark populations are critically endangered, and that is why we are proposing even tougher restrictions in Scotland, sending out a strong message."

Special fishing permits for taking sharks' fins were first issued in Scotland in 2004. If approved, the new restrictions would ban the granting of permits.

Mr Lockhead added: "In Scotland we will not sit back and wait for things to happen. We are determined to develop robust, workable procedures, proving beyond doubt that we are leading the rest of Europe on the conservation front."

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