Shark Fins Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:57 pm on 20th January 2023.

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Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 1:57 pm, 20th January 2023

It is a pleasure to support the Bill of my hon. Friend Christina Rees, which will set out in statute vital powers to end a cruel and ruthless practice. In truth, we should not be debating shark finning in the context of this private Member’s Bill given that a policy on the matter was set out in the last Conservative manifesto.

It important to outline the reasons for ending our part in that barbaric practice by describing its impact not only on sharks but on our planet’s fragile ecosystem. Sharks are found in open oceans. Their numbers have plummeted by 71% over the last half century, and 60% of shark species are now threatened by extinction. The practice of shark finning—the epitome of cruelty—is a big part of that.

Between 2013 and 2017, the UK imported 300 tonnes of shark fins. We continue to be a significant importer of shark fins, but I hope that that will end after today. In 2021, the outgoing Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced a world-leading ban on what he correctly described as a “barbaric” practice. That ban was in line with the 2019 Conservative manifesto and the Government response to a 2020 petition to Parliament, in which they said:

“Following the end of the Transition period we will explore options consistent with World Trade Organisation rules to address the importation of shark fins from other areas, to support efforts to end illegal shark finning practices globally.”

The call for evidence from international companies such as Amazon on the banning of shark fin soup and the trade of shark fins was concluded. Today, the hon. Member for Neath is bringing forward the Bill, but it should have come forward in a broader Government Bill about animals abroad. I hope the Minister will tell us when that Bill will arrive and we will see a whole range of animal welfare issues addressed, as well as this one, which hopefully we will put to bed. It is now time to put in statute effective legislation to make a real dent in this unsustainable, unnecessary and barbaric practice. It will have little economic cost and will allow us to lead the world on this issue. Fundamentally, shark finning is morally indefensible. It is now time to play a part in its end.