European Citizens’ Initiative: give your voice to stop shark finning and trade in two clicks
Since 2012, European citizens can address the European Commission directly through a European Citizens’ Initiative. This makes it possible to propose a concrete legislative amendment. And this is what a group of people have done, determined to put an end to the practice of finning through the initiative « Stop Finning – Stop the Trade ». The latter is one of the causes of the alarming disappearance of sharks. According to the NGO Wild Aid, 73 million sharks are killed each year and overfishing alone has caused losses of more than 70% for some sharks and rays over the past half century. If it is important to be aware of the situation, it is even more important to act. Here, it is possible and in only two clicks: we explain!
The Citizens’ Initiative: an opportunity to make a difference
Thanks to the European Citizens’ Initiative, it is possible to make your voice heard. But for this to succeed, at least one million signatures are needed and a certain threshold, which varies from country to country, must be reached. This is in at least a quarter of the countries of the European Union. Here, this corresponds to seven of them. On the official website of the initiative, we read that « The minimum number required is about 750 times the number of members of the European Parliament« . In France, this corresponds to 56,000 signatures, in Belgium, 16,000. Nevertheless, if a country exceeds its threshold, it will be beneficial to others who have not reached it. In this logic of solidarity, each vote has its importance.
The necessary one million signatures must be collected within one year, i.e. by 31 January 2022. If this is the case, the European Commission will be obliged to react and receive the citizens’ committee. This committee will be able to present its initiative at a public hearing in the European Parliament, after which the Commission will have three months to give an answer on how they intend to act in turn. After that, there are two possible outcomes:
– The acceptance of the proposal leading to a change in the law
– The rejection of the initiative, with the reasons that led to it
Expanding the « Naturally Attached Fins » regulation
The lucrative shark fin trade is the result of a cruel fishing technique called shark finning. This involves cutting off their fins while they are still alive, and then throwing the sharks overboard because their flesh is not valuable enough. Without their fins, the sharks sink to the bottom of the sea and then slowly die by suffocating (they have to swim to breathe to maintain a flow of water that provides oxygen to the gills), bleeding to death or sometimes even being eaten alive. Although it may seem surprising, this trade is also promoted from Europe. The initiative explains in its claim that « Since 2013, the EU regulation ‘Fins Naturally Attached’, prohibits without exception the storage, transshipment and landing of all shark fins in all EU waters and on all EU vessels. Fins must remain naturally attached to the carcass when the vessel is unloaded in port. The fins can then be separated from the animal and exported to Asia”.
Nevertheless, to take a concrete example, Spain has officially landed 53,000 tons of blue shark (1.75 million animals) according to a report by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Cartilaginous Fish Working Group in 2018. Other species, some of which are threatened, are still hunted in Europe and this hunt concerns fins. And the figures speak for themselves: not less than 3500 tons of fins would be relayed per year by the EU, for a total value of about 52 million euros, an example cited by the instigators of the initiative (from Felix Dent, Shelley Clarke; State of the global market for shark products; FAO Fisheries and aquaculture technical paper 590; Rom 2015; Seite 71ff). On the global market, fins, whose origin is often difficult to define, are present in numbers and can be traded legally from and through Europe.
« The “Fins Naturally Attached” regulation, states that: ‘Sharks are not a traditional European food, but they are a necessary part of European marine ecosystems‘». Which is the reason why it is time to finally “take consistent action in Europe to protect sharks and our oceans!”, The members of the initiative add.
Sharks, essential to the life of the oceans
Appearing 430 million years ago (when man only appeared more than two million years ago), sharks are present in all the oceans of the world except Antarctica. With a bad reputation that has been sadly and unjustly attributed to them, they are absolutely essential to the balance and good health of the oceans. Predator, even super-predator, sharks feeds on corpses or sick and weak animals, thus regulating the populations of lower predators. But their role is not limited to that and its disappearance would have terrible consequences for the ecosystem, even threatening the life of many other species.
In fact, sharks have, among other things, a key role in the life of corals, helping them to regenerate and even playing a role in their fertilization. More surprisingly, they also participate, as regulators of the species, to maintain a good oxygen production. The equation is simple, less or more top predators would lead to a disrupted ecosystem and the proliferation and disappearance of other species. At the end of the chain, we find the plankton. It is therefore absolutely essential to keep these top predators so that the balance is maintained and that the production of oxygen is not changed. As a reminder, no less than 17 species of sharks and rays are currently considered at risk of extinction according to the 2019 figures of the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature).
A detailed update on the progress of the votes in the EU countries
For the moment, the most advanced country is France, with 96.34% of the threshold reached, that is to say 53 542 votes out of 55 574, followed by Portugal, which has 86.93% of the threshold reached (13 710 out of 15 771). Then there is Germany, with 65.91%, or 47,515 of the thresholds out of 72,096. Hungary is just behind, with 44.71% (7,051 out of 15,771). Just after is Austria, with 34.72% of the threshold (4 694 out of 13 518). The results in real time of the 22 other EU countries can be found on the dedicated website.
To vote : eu/012/public/#/screen/home
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