Citizens launch initiative to ban shark fin trade in Europe

Monday, 03 Feb, 2020

Sea Shepherd has united with NGOs and citizens from across Europe to demand the end of the shark fin trade in the European Union (EU) and increase the protection of these fragile but key species. This trade relies on the wasteful and unethical practice of cutting the fins off sharks and discarding the animal back into the ocean while it is often still alive. Because of their high commercial value and use in a traditional soup in Asian culture the practice of shark finning still occurs and Europe is one of the major players in the global fin trade.

Sharks are Crucial to a Healthy Ocean

Every year, between 63 and 273 million sharks are killed, and many species are increasingly threatened worldwide.[1] Globally sharks are targeted for their meat and liver oil, but the biggest threat is still shark finning. The steep erosion of shark populations across the globe has severe impacts, as many sharks are ‘apex predators’ and play an active role in maintaining healthy and productive marine ecosystems.

A Chance for Change

The ‘Stop Finning — Stop the Trade’ European Citizens’ Initiative, whose substitute representative is Sea Shepherd's CEO Alex Cornelissen, started collecting signatures on 1 February 2020. With just one year to collect one million votes by EU citizens, we’re calling on all Sea Shepherd supporters in the European Union to participate and help us blow right past that number. Let’s send a clear message to the EU parliament that it is time to make a change! Demand the end of shark fin trade in the European Union:

EU Laws Must be Strengthened

By demanding the “end the trade of fins in the EU including the import, export and transit of fins other than if naturally attached to the animal's body”, these citizens aim to strengthen the EU’s legal framework. Should their endeavour succeed, the European Commission could then decide to propose a new regulation to achieve this goal.[2]

Such a new regulation would go one big step further than the current EU legal framework, which requires — since 2013 and for all EU vessels — that fins remain attached to the carcass of the shark until unloading at port. However, fins can then be separated and traded across the world. While a steep improvement from the EU’s former regulation,[3] this requirement thus still allows fins to be traded across Europe and EU fishers to feed Asia’s strong demand for shark fin soup.

Other Countries are Ahead of the EU

In June 2019, Canada became the first country of the G7 group to ban shark fin imports on its territory,[4] and citizens around the world are increasingly requesting the end of such cruel and useless practices. Europe must follow suit.

European citizens have the power to show their will of stronger wildlife protection to the EU’s decision makers. At a time when the scientific community regularly rings the alarm bell regarding the steep biodiversity’s erosion[5] and the risks associated with climate change,[6] we have no choice but to change our production and consumptions patterns. It is high time to end the shark fin trade in Europe!

Members of the European Citizens’ Initiative

Nils Kluger (representative) — Germany

Alexander Cornelissen (substitute) — Netherlands

Luís Alves — Portugal

Alexandar Dourtchev — Romania

Julian Engel — United Kingdom

Fernando Frias Reis — Spain

Monica Gabell — Sweden

Ioannis Giovos — Greece

Chrysoula Gubili — Greece

Andrew Griffiths — United Kingdom

Frédéric Le Manach — France

Sabine Reinstaller — Austria

Veerle Roelandt — Italy

Fabienne Rossier — France

Katrien Vandevelde — Belgium

This initiative is already supported by 20 environmental NGOs, including SEA SHEPHERD, SHARKPROJECT, BLOOM, Blue Sharks, APECE, iSea, The Global Shark Conservation Initiative (TGSCI), STOP FINNING, Sharks Mission France, Sharks Educational Institute (SEI), Aktionsgemeinschaft Artenschutz, Mundus maris, Gesellschaft zur Rettung der Delphine, Deutsche Meeresstiftung, VDST, Deutsche Stiftung Meeresschutz (DSM), Shark Savers Germany, The Dolphins’ Voice, Pro Wildlife and EJF, and more organisations keep joining.

Procedure of the European Citizens’ Initiative

To be validated, a European Citizen’s Initiative must gather at least one million signatories overall and reach a threshold for at least seven Member States. These thresholds correspond to the number of Members of the European Parliament elected in each Member State, multiplied by 750.

Member State



72 000


55 500


54 750

United Kingdom

54 750


40 500


38 250


24 000


19 500


15 750

Czech Republic

15 750


15 750


15 750


15 750


15 000


13 500


12 750


9 750


9 750


9 750


8 250


8 250


8 250


6 000


6 000


4 500


4 500


4 500


4 500




[2] In the press release that followed the official registration of the Initiative, the European Commission notes that "should the initiative receive one million statements of support within 1 year, from at least 7 different Member States, the Commission will have to react within 6 months. The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not, and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning".

[3] Before Regulation (EU) No 605/2013, the former regulation — dating back to 2003 — banned the practice of shark finning, but left a loophole allowing boats with a ‘special permit’ to continue it. Around 200 of such special permits were annually held by Spain and Portugal.




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