ONE of Scotland’s top MEPs today won his long standing campaign to ban the barbaric practice of slicing off shark fins and using them as an ingredient for soup.
The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of closing current loopholes which allow the practice - known as shark finning - to take place in EU waters.
The victory is a huge personal success for SNP MEP Alyn Smith, who has been a passionate campaigner against this horrendous form of killing. Only last month he swam with more than 10 sharks - some of them more than 12 feet long - in a special tank at Deep Sea World in North Queensferry to generate publicity for the cause.
The practice involves fishermen pulling sharks out of the sea before cutting off their fins and then throwing them back into the water, where they die slowly and in agony. The fins are sold on principally to Asia for use in a gourmet soup.
Speaking from Strasbourg after the vote, Alyn said: “Animal welfare is something which I care passionately about and, as a long-time campaigner against shark finning, I’m so glad to finally see these loopholes closed once and for all.
“While I am incredibly proud of Scotland’s track record on shark finning, I was ashamed that the European Parliament’s legislation was nowhere near as strong as it should have been. So I’m delighted that the EU has finally followed Scotland’s lead.
“Shark finning is not only immoral but it is threatening the very survival of many native European species. It is astonishing to think that one third of European sharks are classed as under threat - something I hope will now change.
Alyn - who is also Honorary Vice President of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - continued: “This week I delivered a petition signed by visitors to Deep Sea World to the European Parliament and also contacted every MEP urging them to vote for the Commission’s proposals. I’m so glad that this has clearly paid off.
“I’m extremely proud to be a member of the European Parliament today. Hats off to my colleagues in Parliament for voting sensibly in order to preserve such a wonderful species.”
The EU attempted to ban the barbaric and wasteful practice of shark finning in 2003, but loopholes in this legislation allow for special fishing permits which have become the rule rather than the exception. Such permits allow fishermen to land shark fins and carcasses at different times, in different ports.
The revised legislation which was agreed by Parliament today closes these loopholes, which are almost exclusively exploited by Spain and Portugal. It was approved with 556 votes in favour.
Mike Flynn, Chief Superintendent at the Scottish SPCA, said: "The practice of shark finning is extremely cruel and has no place in modern society. So we’re delighted the European Parliament has voted in support of a total ban on this practice by EU vessels.
“We’d like to congratulate Alyn Smith for his work in raising this issue and for being the driving force behind this positive change, which is another step forward for animal welfare in Europe."
Dr Joanna Swabe from the international animal welfare organisation Humane Society International commented: “It is heartwarming to see politicians, such as Alyn, so actively engaged in the campaign to close the loopholes in the EU shark finning ban.”