Is shark-finning illegal?

In some jurisdictions, finning at sea is banned. Most bans are enforced through the application of a fin-to-carcass weight ratio: this means that, when a shark catch is landed, the fins should only account for a specific per cent of the total catch weight, e.g. 5% , whilst the remainder must be carcasses. Some groups argue that the weight of fins allowed should be lower because the fins weigh less than 5% of the total body weight (i.e. a 5% limit would still allow finning to occur because more fins can be landed than would have come from the number of carcasses on board). Ultimately, however, whether landed with or without their fins, too many sharks are currently being killed for sustainable populations to survive.

Europe: in 2003, the EU adopted a regulation to ban finning at sea, but special permits can be obtained which allow it. The fin-to-carcass weight ratio is viewed as a loophole in the legislation, as is the allowance for permit.

USA: in 2010, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act which prohibits finning at sea and any boat from carrying shark fins without the corresponding number and weight of carcasses, and all sharks must be brought to port with their fins attached.

In addition to bans on finning, there are increasing moves to ban the sale of the shark fin products; such initiatives can be seen in Hawaii, Guam and the Mariana Islands and one is currently being proposed for California.

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