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Posted: 2019-07-30 11:37:15

Conservation organization WildAid estimates that shark finning — the act of cutting off a shark's fin for its meat — could be responsible for the death of an estimated 73 million sharks every year.

The controversial practice is, unfortunately, part of a culinary tradition that many people don't want to turn their backs on, despite the devastating impact it can have on ecosystems.

Now, Greenpeace has flagged the fact that Britain is responsible for fueling the practice, with more than 50 tonnes of shark fins exported since 2017.

RELATED: HUNDREDS OF SHARKS, RAYS ENSNARED IN PLASTIC

The shark fin trade

The trade is largely fueled by demand for shark fins in Asia, where shark fin soup is seen as a delicacy.

Greenpeace's Unearthed analyzed HM Revenue and Customs data from Britain, revealing that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of shark fin exports have been made since the start of 2017.

The vast majority of these went to Spain, which is itself a big exporter of shark fins, and other kinds of seafood such as tuna, to Asia.

Britain Has Exported Over 50 Tonnes of Shark Fins since 2017
Source: Nicholas Wang/Flickr

Breaking down the analysis

According to Greenpeace, the UK sent roughly 12 tonnes of shark fins to Spain in the first five months of 2019, at a total worth of £92,000.

In 2018, the UK exported 29.7 tonnes of fresh shark fins, worth £216,000. In 2017, a little over 10 tonnes were exported.

Activists are drawing attention to the fact that the UK is increasingly becoming a part of this controversial trade network.

Brexit boon for sharks?

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told Greenpeace:

“While we’re a member of the EU it is not possible to introduce additional restrictions on shark-fin trade, but leaving the EU will give us an opportunity to consider further controls.” 

As with anything Brexit-related, however, there are zero guarantees that further controls will actually be sanctioned.

High profile campaigns against shark finning, rhino horn, and ivory trade have been backed by the likes of David Beckham, Lupita Nyong'o and Jackie Chan. 

In 2016, researchers at Bournemouth University found that overfishing of sharks could have a negative impact on the global climate.

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