Shark Fins Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:35 pm on 15th July 2022.

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Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Labour/Co-operative, Neath 12:35 pm, 15th July 2022

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I welcome the new Minister, Steve Double, to his place. Having recently spent about six weeks with him in Committee, where he was absolutely superb, I am sure he will be just as successful in his new role as he was in his old role. I thank all Members across the House for their support. I thank the Clerks, civil servants, officials, parliamentary counsel, the Whips—nobody ever thanks the Whips—and my staff. I am delighted to promote this Bill.

I will start by explaining why a ban on the import and export of detached shark fins is crucial to sharks’ long-term conservation. Sharks are truly incredible animals. They have been around for over 400 million years—long before the dinosaurs. As top predators, they tell us a huge amount about the health of our ocean and play a vital role in marine ecosystems. Many species of sharks live in UK waters, from basking sharks to blue sharks and even Greenland sharks. The basking shark is the UK’s largest fish, growing up to 11 metres long and weighing up to 7 tonnes—about the size of a double-decker bus.

These fascinating species face many threats, the greatest of which is overfishing. Out of 500 shark species, more than a quarter are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, ranging from “vulnerable” to “critically endangered”. The international fin trade is a significant driving force behind shark overfishing. Shark finning is an extraordinarily wasteful and harmful practice in which only 2% to 5% of the shark is even used. Once a shark’s fins are cut off at sea, the shark is tossed back into the water to slowly drown. Researchers have found that at least 73 million sharks would have to be killed every year to match the volume of shark fins that are traded in the global market, which is a whopping 1 million to 2 million tonnes a year. While not all of these sharks would have been killed through the shark finning practices, it is likely the fin trade is a significant driving force behind those numbers.