The bill to ban the import and export of shark fins in the UK has passed through the House of Lords, and is now set to receive Royal Assent later this year.
Introduced in the Commons by independent MP Christina Rees in 2022, the bill was steered through its third reading in the Lords by Labour peer Baroness Jones of Whitchurch and passed unanimously.
“It will ban the import and export of shark fins in the UK and take a stand against the barbaric practice of sharks being caught, having their fins sliced off and being thrown back into the sea to have a slow, lingering death,” she told the Lords.
“Thankfully, the UK is now making it clear that this practice must stop, setting an example to our global trading partners, which we hope will follow suit.” Baroness Jones thanked “the many marine and shark conservation groups that have campaigned so effectively on this issue, in particular the Shark Trust, Bite-Back and Shark Guardian”.
The law will end what Bite-Back, which has been campaigning on the issue for eight years, describes as “the country’s long, secret and dark participation in the global shark fin trade”. It was Bite-Back that first exposed the legal loophole that facilitated the personal import of shark fins into the UK.
The charity describes the bill as “a world-leading ban that signals a victory for shark conservation, a blow to the shark-fin trade and new hope to countries seeking a similar ban across the whole of Europe”.
The UK currently exports 25 tonnes of shark fins a year to Spain for processing. The UK fishing industry will now be faced with the challenge of having to prove that such fins are for conservation purposes rather than consumption. The same legal requirement will apply to importers.
“The bill is a significant step in demonstrating the UK’s leadership in shark conservation and protecting our natural environment,” said DEFRA minister Lord Benyon. “I appreciate that this is only a small part of the solution to the pressing need to protect the ocean’s richness and diversity, and I am pleased to reiterate the government’s support for the bill.”