King Charles is set to give his Royal Assent to a new law banning the import and export of shark fins later this year, ending the UK's dark and secret participation in the controversial, billion-dollar, global shark fin trade.
Every year, on average, the UK exports around 20 tonnes of shark fins – typically harvested from blue sharks – for processing by Spain and onward shipment to the Far East for use as the title ingredient in shark-fin soup.
UK shark-fin imports, on the other hand, have been a lot harder to track since a loophole in European law permits anyone entering the UK to bring 20kg of dried shark fins through Customs without question, as part of their personal import allowance.
Now, with the monarch’s signature, this is set to end.
Graham Buckingham, campaign director for Bite-Back, said: “A UK ban on the import and export of shark fins represents a world leading victory for shark conservation, a major blow to the shark fin industry, and a new hope to countries seeking a similar ban across Europe and the rest of the globe.”
Since it launched its NO FIN TO DECLARE campaign in 2015, the charity has been at the forefront of efforts to cease the movement of shark fins. In that time it has tirelessly campaigned to encourage public and political support, it has navigated Brexit for new opportunities, it has counselled goverment and endured broken political promises (Animal Welfare Bill 2021), only to find an ally in a back-bench Labour MP who put forward a private members’ bill just 12 months ago.
In the last year, Christina Rees MP for Neath and Port Talbot, supported by Bite-Back, successfully guided her Shark Fins Bill unchallenged through the Houses of Parliament and on to Baroness Jones of Whitchurch in the House of Lords, where the bill was unilaterally supported and passed on Friday 16 June 2023 for Royal Assent into law.
Significantly, fewer than four private members’ bills a year make it to the palace.
Steve Backshall MBE, TV presenter, wildlife expert and patron of Bite-Back, said: “This news is an incredible result for sharks and the oceans. Around the world sharks are being slaughtered in their millions just for their valuable fins and populations can't recover. Without breakthroughs like this we could lose some sharks forever. I can only hope that this outcome prompts more countries to follow the UK’s lead and, together, we can give sharks the break they so desperately need.”
King Charles is due to sign the Shark Fins Bill into law later this year.