This year, the UK has been making strides in its animal protection policies through a variety of ways, like becoming the first country in the world to recognize animals as sentient beings as well as passing the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.
The British government, determined to keep up the momentum, isn’t going to stop there and has recently announced that it will prohibit all importation and exportation of detached shark fins, plus all and any products containing shark fins.
Animal welfare minister Lord Goldsmith published the details in a release from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs last month, but the date on which the ban will be implemented is yet to be determined.
The UK first banned shark finning in its water in 2013, however, the legislation, much like restrictions that ban the production of foie gras, veal, and fur, wasn’t comprehensive enough and left enough room for the controversial trade to continue.
The 2013 shark finning ban still permitted the importation of up to 25 kg of shark fins for “personal consumption,” and a Greenpeace Unearthed investigation showed that Britain still exported over 50 tons of fins between 2017 and 2019.
“Shark finning is indescribably cruel and causes thousands of shark[s] to die terrible deaths,” says Goldsmith. “Our action will not only help boost shark numbers, it will send a clear message that we do not support an industry that is forcing many species to the brink of extinction.”
Sharks, like grizzly bears and seals, are keystone species, meaning that their health is essential for the health of the entire ecosystem and other marine life. Their bodies also store carbon, so disrupting their natural cycle of life and death negatively impacts the already dire climate crisis.
“It is encouraging to see the UK addressing the fin trade as an element of overfishing: the principal threat to sharks and rays,” says Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “And we’re noting that the UK is ramping up its engagement in domestic and international shark conservation issues.”
Hopefully, other nations will follow the UK’s lead and set measures to help protect these 450-million-year-old animals and our marine environments.