Shark Finning and the UK

Are you just starting to take an interest in sharks? Perhaps you just happened to glance at an occasional article or shark documentary?  If so, you probably have seen very vocal protests against shark finning. Hopefully this article will help you understand why so many people are outraged by this painful business, even if you don’t live in the UK.

So what exactly is shark finning?
Shark finning occurs when a captured shark has its fins cut off with the body of the sharks being discarded back into the water, often still alive.  The shark being unable to swim, will be eaten by other predators or sink to the bottom and drown.  Inevitably finning leads to the death of the shark.

You may find yourself asking If It is so barbaric, why do they do it? Plain and simple it is for commercial reasons. Shark fins carry a much higher market value than the rest of the shark’s flesh. Discarding the shark’s body to the mercy of the ocean leaves mores space in the fishing vessel for fins.  More space for fins equals more money for the fisherman.

It is estimated that the shark fin industry is worth 540 million US dollars per year.

Shark fins are a greatly sought after item, especially in the far eastern market, (Hong Kong making up 70% of the market) There is a huge demand for shark fin soup, traditional medicines and remedies, but also for trophies.

417px-Shark_finsUp to 4 million sharks are caught in UK waters annually, Blue sharks and Mako being the most targeted species

It is easy to believe that this is an industry that primarily operates in the Far East. Sadly that is not the case; it’s a truly worldwide operation which includes the UK.  Though shark finning is regulated in the EU it is not, as of yet banned. The practice is still carried out with the issue of special permits and weak legislation often means loopholes are exploited. One such loophole being, a shark fin can be removed if 5% of the overall weight of the shark is retained (similar to spinning). Lenient interpretation of this law makes it extremely ineffective.

The fishing industry is important.   Many of us like fish, so why should sharks get special treatment?

Unfortunately, Sharks take years to reach maturity. In the case of blue sharks it typically takes 5 years and many give birth to as few as 4 pups at a time. This coupled with estimates of over 70 millions sharks caught worldwide every year, makes the industry clearly unsustainable.

There is only one reason this industry continues to thrive and that is supply and demand. If the public demands it, there will always be somebody willing to supply.

Hopefully, this article will help a few people realise this isn’t just a problem on the other side of the world, it’s happening in our seas, right now. By spreading the word of the barbaric practices and the unsustainable shark population, we can work together to end this.  Awareness is the key. The more people that aware of the facts, the more people will think twice about partaking of shark fin products.


What can you do to help?

Visit our friends at Bite-Back

There you can download a letter signed by Bite-Back’s Souper Heroes Gordon Ramsey, Martin Clunes, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal, Charles Clover, Ben Fogle and Frank Pope to present to any vendor selling shark fin soup or other shark products.




Thank you for reading

Steve Smith

Follow Mr. Smith on Twitter @ReverendBiz

Be sure to check out his other articles. Sharks and the UK part 1   and  Was it worth it? 172 sharks culled


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