MEPs have voted to close loopholes that allowed some EU fishing vessels to continue “shark finning”.
Although the EU banned removing shark fins at sea and discarding the body, special permits allowed finning to continue legally.
Conservation groups, which said finning was threatening shark numbers, welcomed the European Parliament’s decision.
The decision to back the European Commission’s plans means the details will now be considered by EU ministers.
The resolution was adopted with 566 votes in favour, 47 against and 16 abstentions.
“Parliament’s vote represents a major milestone in the global effort to end the wasteful practice,” said Sandrine Polti, EU shark policy adviser for the Pew Environmental Group and the Shark Alliance.
“[We have] been working towards this and other fundamental reforms in European shark policies for more than six years and are thrilled with today’s vote and the progress we expect to stem from it.”
Dr Joanna Swabe, EU director for Humane Society International (HSI), said she was delighted that MEPs had decided not to support the argument to retain the special permits.
“This would have been disastrous for shark protection not just in EU waters but worldwide,” she said.
“HSI commends the European Parliament for defending sharks against the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning.”
Shark finning is driven by the fact that the animals’ fins are highly valuable in comparison with shark carcasses.
As severed fins could be easily stored, it made economic sense for fishing vessels to remove the fins at sea, rather than bringing the entire animal – which would quickly fill a vessel’s cold storage areas – into port.
It is estimated that fins can sell for between 16 and 70 euros (