The Shark Alliance, a coalition of non-governmental organisations dedicated to shark conservation, said on Wednesday that not only did loopholes in EU regulations allow shark fining - slicing off a shark's fins for the shark-fin soup market and discarding the body - but the catch limits imposed were well short of scientific recommendations.

 

"Europe is playing a lead role in the over fishing, waste and depletion of the world's sharks," the report said.

 

"EU restrictions on shark fining remain among the weakest in the world and no overall plan to manage EU shark fisheries and restore depleted populations exists," it added.

 

Sharks are vital to the ecological balance of oceans but, because of their slow growth rate and lengthy pregnancies, are also among the most vulnerable.

 

Shark fining is banned by many countries which insist that bodies are landed with fins, the report said.


Loophole

 

But it said EU rules allow fins and bodies to be landed separately, rendering the regulations "all but meaningless" and undermining fining bans on a global scale.


Shark species targeted by the fining trade include hammerheads, blues, makos, basking and dogfish, the Shark Alliance said.

 

Even those sharks that were taken for their meat were being over fished, it added.

 

While top quality shark meat can fetch up to $10 per kilogram, fins are worth up to 70 times that the report said.

 

Spain, France, Britain and Portugal account for more than 80 per cent of the European shark catch - with Spain accounting for nearly half the EU total of 115,000 tonnes.

 

Elsewhere, large numbers of sharks not wanted for either fins or meat were being killed as they got caught in fishing nets intended for other sea animals.

 

"Overall, numbers of sharks are declining with many now seriously depleted and some species already locally extinct," the report said.

 

The Shark Alliance urged the EU to tighten its rules and bring total catch limits down for Europe's 130 species of shark.