Posted by: The ocean update | July 25, 2015

Cruel shark fin trade supported by EU loophole which permits ‘smuggling’

Some shark species are endangered because of the value of their fins

Some shark species are endangered because of the value of their fins

July 22nd, 2015 (Stuart Winter). AN EU loophole is allowing travellers to “smuggle” precious shark fins into Britain to be sold on the black market for small fortunes.

By claiming the fins are covered under personal allowance rules, travellers arriving in the UK can sell precious amounts to restaurants for as much £3,500. 

Sharks are slipping inexorably towards extinction because of the demand for their fins to be made into soup, one of the great delicacies of Chinese cuisine.

Under EU rules, travellers are able to bring back 20kg of dried shark fin in their luggage under the same personal allowance rule that covers tobacco and alcohol.

An investigation by the charity, Bite-Back, suggests shark fins arriving in the UK through this personal allowance loophole allows travellers to sell their customs allowance for as much £3,500 to restaurants.

The 20kg allowance is enough to make 705 bowls of soup.

Bite-back, the UK shark and marine conservation charity, has launched a campaign to stop personal importation of shark fins to Europe.

Its No Fin To Declare crusade is challenging EU allowance laws, describing them as “outdated and careless”.

Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is supporting the No Fin to Declare campaign and says: “Demand for shark fin soup is responsible for the decimation of shark populations all across the world.

“This personal import allowance is how almost all shark fins reach the restaurant trade – and it’s insane.

“Twenty kilos of dried shark fins represents around 25 dead sharks and is enough to make hundreds of bowls of soup.

It’s a legal but unregulated trade that’s pushing many shark populations closer to extinction and it must be stopped.”

Catching sharks for their precious fins has been exposed for both its cruelty and also conservation threats.

Because the fins are the most valuable part of a shark, the fish often have these hacked off while still alive and are then dumped back to the sea where they are doomed to a slow death.

Relentless fishing recently saw the International Union for Conservation of Nature declare 25 per cent of shark species as threatened with extinction.

Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “This outdated and careless piece of legislation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. No other food item on the personal import allowance list compares in terms of volume and value.

“It’s outrageous to think that Customs officials will seize and destroy a packet of biltong, yet they’ll wave through someone with 20kg of shark fins. The limit is wrong, it’s open to abuse and, if sharks stand a chance of survival, it needs to be banned.

“You don’t need to be a shark fan to know that this legislation is wrong. Sharks are the lions and leopards of the ocean. The personal import allowance for shark fins must be reduced to zero.”

Bite-Back says its European petition aims end the black market trade in fins destined for the restaurant trade all 28 EU countries and combat the illegal movement of fins taken from endangered sharks such as the great white, hammerhead and oceanic whitetip.

Shark fins are a delicacy in parts of Asia

Shark fins are a delicacy in parts of Asia

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