Ban on ‘barbaric’ shark finning

A complete ban on the “barbaric” practice of shark fin removal is to come into force in Scotland within weeks, it has been announced.

Special permits have been needed for the practice since 2004 but Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said the ban would now be made absolute.

It would apply to all Scottish vessels, regardless of where they fish, and to any other vessel in the Scottish zone.

Shark fins are prized in Asia for use in soup.

EU countries have been the main exporters.

A European action plan was announced in April but the Scottish government and Mr Lochhead said Scotland planned to go further.

Ministers plan to make an order at Holyrood which would ban the practice without exception.

Mr Lochhead, who has urged Brussels to follow Scotland’s lead, said: “Some shark populations are close to extinction, so I am delighted that Scotland is bringing an end to such a barbaric practice.

“As one of Europe’s most important fishing nations we have a duty to show that we are serious about protecting the sustainability of our seas, their stocks and the wider marine ecosystem, not just through words but with action.

“Scotland has been praised in the past for taking a stand on shark finning. Now we are once again taking decisive action and sending out a strong, unequivocal message to the rest of Europe.”

Ali Hood, director of conservation for the Shark Trust, said: “We applaud Scotland on its further action in urging the European Commission to review the finning legislation and ensure all sharks caught by European vessels are landed with their fins naturally attached.”

Louize Hill, marine policy officer at conservation group WWF Scotland, said: “We warmly welcome this ban.

Shark finning is an incredibly wasteful practice, with over 90% in weight of the shark being discarded and many species targeted threatened with extinction.

“It has become clear that the only effective way to protect these vulnerable species is through a ban.

“We back the strong line taken by the Scottish government and urge the European Commission to follow Scotland’s lead and ensure sharks are offered protection in all European waters.”