Spain’s shark fishers fail eco-friendly test

In the wake of the news that Spain is the world's largest exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong, environmentalists warn that Europe needs to tighten up its rules on fishing of the animal.

Spain's shark fishers fail eco-friendly test
The European Commission wants to end the practice of 'finning', or catching sharks only to cut off their fins for use in soup. Photo: Australian Customs/AFP

"The problem is not so much that Spain is the number one exporter of shark fins to the Chinese city," Alex Bartoli of Shark Alliance told The Local.

"The issue is that Europe needs to tighten up its rules regarding both shark fishing and finning."

Finning is the practice of capturing sharks, cutting off their fins and then releasing them into the ocean where they die from suffocation or fall victim to predators. Alternatively, the animals are brought back to shore and the fins are removed there.

The fins are used to make the Chinese delicacy shark fin soup.

Hong Kong is the destination for half of the world's shark fin market, El Mundo reported on Friday.  

Bartoli told The Local that Europe´s anti-finning law of 2003 needed further strengthening as on-board finning still occurred.

In November 2012, European Commission deputies overwhelmingly voted in favour of a proposed new law which it said means "EU vessels fishing anywhere in the world will have to land sharks with the fins still attached".

The introduction of the new law will effectively put a stop to finning.

Bartoli said the new rules were yet to be approved by the continent's fisheries ministers but he hoped this would be done "as soon as possible".

The Shark Alliance spokesman also said that the European Union needed to draw up tougher rules on the fishing of the blue shark and the porbeagle, the two most widely fished species in Spain.

He said there were currently no limitations on capture of these animals in terms of both total hauls and the size of the individual animals fished.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.