Richard Lochhead is urging Scottish MEPs to sign up to a European Parliament written declaration to remove current loopholes in the European shark finning legislation.
The Fisheries Secretary says that shark finning is a barbaric practice, and the current weak EU shark finning legislation allows vessels at sea, that are in possession of a Special Fishing Permit, to remove fins from vulnerable species of sharks.
Mr Lochhead's call follows his decision last year to ban Special Fishing Permits, and thus prevent fins being removed from sharks by Scottish vessels when at sea. The Scottish ban is the strongest in the European Union, but it does not stop other vessels from undertaking shark finning in Scottish waters if they hold a permit issued by another EU member state.
Now a campaign is underway to have the European Parliament amend the legislation and stop all European vessels from removing shark fins when at sea. Mr Lochhead has written to all Scottish MEPs asking them to support the amendment.
Mr Lochhead said: "With some shark populations critically endangered we need to take measures to protect sharks in European waters. That's why I strengthened Scottish legislation earlier this year to ban the barbaric practice of 'shark finning' by Scottish vessels.
"It is unpalatable that in European Shark Week, vulnerable sharks can still be targeted for their fins. It is hardly good management of our natural environment to allow a whole range of shark species to be killed and dumped for the sake of one saleable part."
Earlier this year, Mr Lochhead received a 'Shark Champion Award' in recognition of the Scottish Government's decision to ban the removal of fins from sharks at sea. (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2010/01/19104457)
The campaign to ban shark finning is being led by The Shark Trust (www.sharktrust.org). October 9-17 is European Shark week and this year is focused on achieving a Europe-wide ban on 'shark finning'.
A simple amendment to the EU shark finning legislation could provide the protection these vulnerable species need; removing article 4 from EC Regulation 1185/2003 would ensure that the removal of shark fins on board all EU vessels at sea, and by all vessels within European waters, is prohibited without exception. All sharks would be required to be landed with their fins naturally attached, allowing easy identification of the species caught and thus providing better protection for endangered species.
Contact: Barbara Fraser : 0131 244 2625 / Barbara.email@example.com