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Removal of shark fins

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Removal of shark fins

The practice of removing shark fins and discarding the remainder of the carcase at sea * represents a serious threat to the conservation of these species and to the sustainability of fisheries. Demand for shark fins is growing, particularly on Asian markets where they fetch very high prices. Measures need to be taken urgently therefore to ban or prevent the expansion of the practice. This Regulation, which prohibits the removal and retention on board vessels of shark fins and their transshipment and landing is a measure aimed at lowering the excessive mortality of these vulnerable species.


Council Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003 of 26 June 2003 on the removal of fins of sharks on board vessels.


In this Regulation the Council seeks to ban the practice of removing shark fins on board vessels and discarding the remainder of the shark carcases at sea. The most effective and rational way of applying a measure to ban the practice of 'shark finning' and make shark by-catches less advantageous is to prohibit the removal of fins on board as well as the retention on board, transshipment and landing of fins that have been removed from the bodies of sharks.

For practical reasons, however, including where the carcase is to be kept and used, the removal of shark fins on board and the separate processing of fins and the remainder of the body on board may be necessary in certain types of fishing. In these circumstances, it is considered appropriate to issue a special fishing permit for this practice provided that the presence on board, landing and transshipment of fins are accompanied by the presence on board, landing and transshipment of a corresponding carcase weight. In order to make the application of these rules easier and to limit possible abuses, a single, restrictive conversion factor applicable to all species of sharks is to be adopted.


The problems raised by the practice of removing shark fins extend beyond Community waters. For that reason the regulation applies to all fishing vessels operating in Community waters and to Community vessels operating outside those maritime waters falling within the sovereignty of the Member States.

Prohibited activities

The regulation prohibits:

  • the removal of shark fins on board vessels and their retention on board, transshipment or landing;
  • the purchase or sale of shark fins which have been removed on board, retained on board, transshipped or landed in contravention of the regulation.

Derogation and associated conditions

Flag Member States may issue and administer a special permit authorising the removal on board of fins from dead sharks (followed by their retention on board, transshipment or landing), on condition that the remainder of the carcase is also retained on board (with the exception of waste associated with gutting, beheading and skinning). Such authorisation may be granted only where the fishing vessels are capable of using all parts of the sharks and can demonstrate the need for the separate processing of shark fins and other shark parts.

In that case, the weight of the fins retained on board must never exceed 5% of the total weight of the shark catch (live weight).

A system of recording and monitoring the quantities of shark fins and other parts of sharks retained on board, transshipped, landed and sold makes possible the monitoring of compliance with these provisions by the masters of vessels which hold this permit. The data must be verified by the Member States.

Where landings take place at non-Community ports, a system of prior notification of at least 72 hours is also included in the monitoring arrangements.

Key terms used in the act

  • Removal of shark fins: this practice, also known as finning, consists in cutting off and retaining the fins of sharks and discarding the remainder of the body at sea. The practice contributes to the excessive mortality of stocks of these species.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Council Regulation (EC) No 1185/2003



OJ L 167, 4.7.2003

See also

Last updated: 25.03.2011