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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK
EU faces shark fin ban call
Millions of sharks are being killed just for their fins
Campaigners demanding an end to the practice of "finning" sharks have handed in a 15,000-signature petition to the European Union.

European fishing fleets have become a major exporter of shark fins to supply the Hong Kong market where a bowl of shark's fin soup can cost up to 70.

The UK exports about three metric tonnes of shark fins to Hong Kong every year, compared with 39 metric tonnes exported by Norway and 2,000 metric tonnes exported by Spain, one of the world's major producers of shark fins.

Basking sharks have declined by up to 80% around UK waters in the past 20 years - caught and discarded as a "valueless" by-catch and now specifically targeted for their fins.

We are wiping them out for the sake of a few bowls of soup and a trophy fin for a wall

Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat Euro MP
About 100 million sharks are caught worldwide every year, mostly just for their fins, as shark meat has little commercial value.

Many shark populations - and some entire species - are at risk of extinction as a result, according to the Plymouth-based campaign group The Shark Trust.

They want the EU to follow South Africa, the US, Oman, Brazil and Costa Rica, and parts of Australia which have banned "finning" in their territorial waters.

'Magnificent creatures'

Shark "finning" consists of hacking off the sharks' fins and tails before throwing them, often still living, back into the ocean.

Millions of sharks are believed to be discarded in this way every year.

The trade is hitting shark numbers
Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat Euro MP and environment spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "Sharks are the lions of the seas, the predators at the top of the food chain, yet we are wiping them out for the sake of a few bowls of soup and a trophy fin for a wall.

"The EU must take steps to protect these magnificent creatures."

Sarah Fowler of The Shark Trust said: "All EU discussions regarding fisheries, including the Common Fisheries Policy Review currently under way, must immediately address the issue of shark conservation generally and shark finning in particular."

Shark fin soup was banned from European Parliament restaurants in Brussels and Strasbourg last year.

Sales of frozen, dried or canned shark's fin have been boosted by internet sales sites and in China, the retail price of a single large whale shark's dorsal fin is up to 15,000.

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See also:

13 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Campaign targets Shark's fin soup
22 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Sharks endangered by fin trade
06 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Soup threatens sharks' survival
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