Did you know that the U.S. government has allowed the practice of shark-finning for several years? You might have thought this was a practice relegated to Asian countries, where shark fins are used in a local soup. In the past, fishermen could horde piles of shark fins alongside the shark bodies so long as the weight of the fins did not exceed 5% of the total weight. Shark fishermen could cheat this system though by piling fins from every shark caught, then filling the hold with the bodies of smaller sharks. New Scientist reported on Earth Day that U.S. is ending shark finning in its water.
The new rule, which will come into effect in time for the shark-fishing season in June, is part of a plan to help badly overfished populations of sharks recover. It will only protect sharks until 2012, when fisheries managers will reevaluate the stocks.
A measure to permanently require that sharks be landed intact was introduced to the US Congress last week. The European Union is also considering similar measures to enforce the ban on finning.
According to Wikipedia, Europe supplies Hong Kong with 1/3 of the imported shark fins. Spain is the top european supplier at between 2000 and 5000 metric tonnes of shark fins a year.