Shark Fins Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 20th January 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn 1:54 pm, 20th January 2023

I am the MP for a coastal constituency—the Isle of Anglesey, or Ynys Môn—so the marine world is significant to me and to my constituents.

I am passionate about marine life. My first job, working with Terry Nutkins of “Animal Magic” fame—a few Members may remember that—was caring for dolphins. As a British Sub-Aqua Club diver, I have dived many times with sharks, coming face to face with hammerhead sharks and whale sharks—those have been some of my more terrifying experiences, along with having babies and standing for election. I also studied marine microbiology at university.

Many of my constituents are involved in the fishing and maritime industries, others work with the excellent Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences, and yet more are deeply concerned about animal welfare, such as those who work so hard at the Anglesey Sea Zoo. I represent them all in my support for the Bill, which has been brought to the House by my friend Christina Rees. Today, we could make history by passing two important new Bills sponsored by two Welsh Members of Parliament.

It is not known exactly how many sharks are killed or wounded each year by finning, but it is estimated that the figure runs into the tens or hundreds of millions. Although the UK banned the landing of fins in 2003, that has not stopped the import of fins—it was estimated that the UK imported about five tonnes of shark fins in 2020. Those figures equate to thousands of sharks, which are often landed and have their fins removed before their finless bodies are returned to the water. Without fins, sharks cannot swim, which means that they cannot obtain oxygen. As a result, they are left to drown slowly. The worldwide figure for sharks lost to that practice is in the millions.

The greatest threat to sharks is overfishing, and the shocking loss of such beautiful creatures for the sake of just their fins is further contributing to their decline. Studies have shown that wild shark populations have declined by about 70% since 1970, and some species are now even considered critically endangered, so we risk seeing them disappear from our waters for ever. Sharks are fascinating and diverse creatures that are important to the biodiversity of our oceans. They play an important role in keeping our oceans healthy, and their loss has a significant impact on our marine ecosystems.

The UK Government support the Bill. The EU, along with the UK, banned the landing of fins not attached to sharks 20 years ago, and in 2009 we enforced a “fins attached” policy to UK vessels. Our 2021 action plan for animal welfare reiterates our commitment to banning both the import and export of shark fins. I am proud of the strong track record that we have in animal welfare and of the measures that the Government are supporting through Parliament to improve that area further.

It is barbaric that we still allow the import and export of detached shark fins. I fully support the Bill, which will not only protect sharks but make a significant statement to the world about the UK’s commitment to seeing an end to the trade in shark fins.