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 am grateful for another superb intervention from my hon. Friend, and I bow to her wisdom. Sometimes we do not get what is written on the tin.

Clause 2 amends article 1 of the shark finning regulation 1185/2003, which forms part of retained EU law, to make sure that shark finning cannot take place by any vessel fishing in UK waters, or by any UK vessel fishing in non-UK waters. That ensures that our domestic protections are of the highest standard. Clause 3 sets out the territorial extent of the Bill and when or how each provision comes into force. As the Bill relates to devolved matters, legislative consent will be sought from the devolved Administrations during the passage of the Bill, but I understand that they are supportive of taking action against the cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade.

I would like to thank stakeholders and colleagues who have contacted me on this important matter, particularly members of Shark Guardian and Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation, who have been instrumental in throwing a spotlight on the issue of shark finning for many years—some of them are watching from the Gallery today. Since 2004, Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation has been at the forefront of successful campaigns to end the sale and consumption of shark fins and shark products in Britain. In recent years it launched its “No Fin To Declare” campaign—I love the name—exposing Britain’s contributions to the global shark fin trade. The charity argues that a decision to ban all import and exports of detached shark fins will establish Britain as a global leader in the conservation of sharks and, ultimately, inspire other countries to introduce their own bans and join the UK in the protection of this keystone marine species.

In 2021, Shark Guardian, a charity based in Nottingham, launched a petition on Parliament’s website to ban the British shark fin trade, which secured more than 115,000 signatures, showing the depth of support for my Bill among a passionate and caring British public. Shark Guardian believes that if my Bill is passed into law, that will have a huge and positive knock-on effect on the continent, because the European Union will have to take note of our legislation, and take steps to pass a similar EU law to ban the import and export of shark fin through its borders too, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East mentioned. That is important because Spain is by far the single biggest exporter of frozen shark fins to Hong Kong, a city that has, for many years, been the epicentre of this cruel and unsustainable trade. If the supply chain to Hong Kong, and, by extension to China, can be cut, global shark populations that are threatened with extinction today can be offered a new lease of hope tomorrow.

This Bill is crucial to ensuring the long-term survival and recovery of vital shark populations. It is an important step for the UK to demonstrate its leadership and commitment to shark conservation. I therefore urge all Members to support the smooth passage of the Bill through this House and onto the statute book.