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The future of sharks
Gordon Ramsay’s Shark Bait
January 29, 2011

Following the airing of Gordon Ramsay’s Shark Bait (Channel 4 Sunday, 16th January 2011) the Shark Trust has received an avalanche of emails, letters of support and questions. Shark Bait has brought the issue of shark finning and its implications for shark populations to public attention. The Shark Trust has long been at the forefront of the campaign to halt shark finning and has been instrumental in securing legislation both in the UK and Europe. With the fins of up to 70 million sharks passing through the fin trade on an annual basis shark finning is currently the greatest threat to shark populations. However the issue is complicated and we hope the text below will go some way to answering a range of questions that have been raised:

The Shark Trust supports an end to the sale of shark fin products because it is currently not possible to identify supplies of fins that are guaranteed to be sourced from responsibly managed, sustainable shark fisheries.


  • Shark finning: the removal of shark fins and the discard of the carcass at sea.
  • Removal of fins at seas: the removal of shark fins at sea and the retention of the carcass usually managed through a fin:carcass ratio.
  • Fin:carcass ratio: Many  finning ‘bans’ are weak, often permitting the removal of shark fins at sea under the proviso that the carcass is retained in accordance with a fin:carcass ratio which is often set at around 5%. However, depending on which legislation you are covered by this ratio could be set at 5% of the whole weight of the shark, or 5% of the dressed weight (head and organs removed), and with a sharks head and organs accounting for 30-50% of the sharks weight, 5% dressed weight is a very ‘generous’ ratio. Research suggests the fins of an average shark are ~2% of its whole weight, so a 5% fin:carcass ratio could enable less scrupulous operators to land two to three times the amount of fins to carcasses.
  • Fins naturally attached: fins remain attached to the carcass by natural means.

Is it legal to sell shark fins?

The trade in shark fins is legal, therefore the sale of shark fin soup is legal. The only exception to this rule is Hawaii where the trade in shark fin products is illegal.

If a vessel lands fins without carcasses does this mean the vessel has been finning sharks?
Possibly, but not always. Shark finning regulations vary depending on the country of registration of a vessel.  If a vessel is covered by a finning regulation which allows the removal of shark fins (providing carcasses are retained usually in accordance with a fin:carcass ratio) at sea then it may also be permitted to tranship (off load to another vessel at sea) fins or carcasses, or land fins/carcasses in separate ports. In this instance it would be legal to land fins without carcasses. Such a loophole makes finning regulations very hard to enforce and open to abuse. 
Requiring that vessels land all sharks with their fins naturally attached  would prevent the abuse of the fin:carcass ratio and allow shark catches to be monitored more accurately.

Europe’s role in the fin trade:

Shark finning is banned on European vessels worldwide since 2003. European vessels have provided just under a third of the shark fins entering the Hong Kong fin trade. However, despite the EU finning ban EU Member States can currently apply for a permit to allow the removal of shark fins at sea provided carcasses are retained under a lenient 5% live weight (whole shark) fin:carcass ratio. Spain is the third largest shark fishing nation in the world. Spain and Portugal are the only two EU Member States to allow the removal of shark fins at sea. The EU finning regulation is currently under reviewclick here to find out more.

How can I help?

Does the Shark Trust have a petition?
The Shark Trust regularly uses petitions to demonstrate the weight of public support for specific campaign issues. To be effective a petition must have a clear target and timescale. The Trust does not currently have an active petition as there is no strategic target at this moment. However you can help the Trust raise awareness of shark finning by sending our ecard to your friends and family.

Your local restaurant sells shark fin – what can you do?

1. Remember the sale of shark fins is not illegal.
2. Download the shark finning template letter for restaurants.
3. Politely present the material to the restaurant and allow them time to consider the material – do not expect an instant response.
4. If the restaurant commit to stopping the sale of shark fin soup then present them with a We Do Not Serve Shark Fin Soup Poster to display in their window.

What to do if your local restaurant won’t join the campaign?

Remember the sale of shark fins is not illegal and unfortunately not all restaurants will agree to withdraw sale. Under no circumstances can the Shark Trust condone abusive or rude behaviour.

The Shark Trust supports an end to the sale of shark fin products because it is currently not possible to identify supplies of fins that are guaranteed to be sourced from responsibly managed, sustainable shark fisheries.





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