The European Commission will register a European Citizens’ Initiative aimed at curtailing the ray and shark fin trade across the EU.
The proposed Citizens’ Initiative, ‘Stop finning – stop the trade’, aims to halt the import, export and transport of fins which are not ‘naturally attached’ to their original owners. While shark finning in its traditional form – removing the fin and returning the shark carcass to the ocean – is currently illegal in the EU, loopholes and gaps in legislation still permit a degree of export and transit of fins taken from both sharks and rays.
The initiative’s organisers say: ‘[A]lthough the removal of fins on board of EU vessels and in EU waters is prohibited and sharks must be landed with their fins naturally attached, the EU is among the biggest exporters of fins and a major transit hub for the global fin trade.’
The Commission will register the ‘Stop finning – stop the trade’ initiative on 2 January 2020, after which the organisers will begin collecting signatures in support of their measure. If the initiative receives a million or more signatures from at least seven distinct Member States within 12 months, the Commission will be compelled to either take action on the initiative or produce a cohesive justification for inaction within a further six months.
The European Citizens’ Initiative programme was launched in 2012, since which time the European Commission has registered a total 71 initiatives. Once an initiative has been formally registered by the European Commission, its proposers are granted the opportunity to invite the Commission to take action: if an initiative covering an area over which the Commission has legal jurisdiction is able to garner more than one million signatures from at least a quarter of the EU’s total Member States, the Commission is formally invited to propose a legal act to address the presented issue.