Shark finning: identifying further solutions

Shark finning is the practice of removing any of the fins of a shark (including the tail) and discarding the remainder of the shark at sea. This is strictly prohibited within MSC certified fisheries.

The MSC Fisheries Standard requires certification bodies to assess the likelihood that any vessel in a fishery is engaged in shark finning. This is part of the scoring for both Principle 1 (sustainable stocks) and Principle 2 (minimising environmental impact).

Improving our Standard

Our recent updating of the MSC Fisheries Certification Process v2.2 clarified the MSC Board's intent that shark finning is not to be undertaken within MSC certified fisheries. But there are still concerns that the current requirements do not reflect global best practice or lead to consistent outcomes. 

This review will consider whether our current shark finning requirements deliver the needed confidence that shark finning is not occurring in an MSC certified fishery. We want to make sure we have the right incentives for fisheries seeking certification to actively improve their efforts to prevent shark finning.  

How could the Standard change?

The result of the review could lead to a change in requirements and guidance of the MSC Fisheries Standard.

This means we could see a change in the way the requirements are articulated, to ensure the intent is clear. Most notably, we may need to make changes to the evidence required for Conformity Assessment Bodies to ensure compliance with our shark finning requirements.  

We will not change the intent of the Fisheries Standard, which is to ensure shark finning does not occur within MSC certified fisheries. Any changes will be in line with current global best practice both for management and identification or monitoring of shark finning, and will be informed through consultancy with stakeholders. 

Proposed revisions to the Standard

Policy options proposing changes to the Fisheries Standard have been developed following stakeholder consultations, independent research into global best practice for preventing shark finning and impact assessments. 

The policy options were presented to the MSC’s Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council in December 2020 who provided advice and made recommendations to the Board of Trustees. In January 2021, the Board of Trustees decided which policies will be taken forward in the review. The policies are detailed below:

Implementing Fins Naturally Attached as a minimum requirement
A requirement for fisheries to have a Fins Naturally Attached policy in place could be introduced for fisheries to achieve the minimum acceptable score during MSC assessment (i.e. score at the SG60 level). Fisheries may still be eligible for MSC certification if they are using an alternative method proven to be as effective as FNA at ensuring shark finning does not take place

The proposal is still in development and stakeholders will be consulted further in mid-2021.

We are currently investigating the scenarios in which proven and effective alternatives to Fins Naturally Attached would be acceptable, and how these alternatives - alongside high levels of independent external monitoring - could provide adequate assurance that shark finning is not taking place

We anticipate that setting Fins Naturally Attached at the minimum acceptable level will set a clear performance bar for all MSC certified fisheries and recognises the increased adoption of this policy worldwide.

Bespoke shark definition
A bespoke definition of a shark could be introduced, which would include some species of ray in addition to true sharks. This will ensure our requirements cover the species most vulnerable to the shark fin trade such as guitarfishes and wedgefishes. 

View our impact assessment report on 'Identifying further solutions to ensure MSC certified fisheries are not involved in shark finning'

 

Progress so far

Stakeholder consultations

We held two virtual workshops in July 2020 to seek input from stakeholders into the review of our requirements for shark finning. Stakeholders could provide additional input through a follow-up survey. 

We have published a consultation summary report, which includes transcripts from the workshops and survey feedback and a descriptive analysis of attendees. Commercially sensitive and personal details have been redacted. Please note that the report does not contain details of policy direction

View the summary report from the July 2020 consultations on 'Evaluating the MSC's requirements for the prevention of shark finning'

Review of best practice in the prevention of shark finning

We are conducting a thorough review of the current global management practices on shark finning. We want to find out if there has been progress in the science and management of shark finning that could be used to update our Standard. 

We commissioned an independent consultant to carry out a thorough review of current global management practices for shark finning. A key focus of this review was on a fins naturally attached policy (FNA), a policy which requires the whole shark to be landed without processing at sea.  The review identified a general increase in the uptake of FNA since the publication of the current MSC Fisheries Standard in 2014. It was also found that under certain management regimes, FNA policies are applied with the possibility for exemptions under specific conditions.

The independent consultant investigated the uptake and implementation mechanisms for shark finning bans across 43 nations with the highest levels of shark fishing. Within this, the review explored the prevalence and uptake of FNA policies. 

Of the 43 shark fishing nations reviewed:

  • 21 have a finning ban in place
  • 19 have an FNA policy in place
  • Four only apply conservation and management measures set by regional fisheries management organisations
  • Nine have no finning bans
  • Nine are unknown or unverifiable

FNA, Fin to Carcass Ratios and Fins Artificially Attached were the main methods used to ensure compliance with a finning ban across the respective jurisdictions sampled.

View the report on 'Best Practice in the Prevention of Shark Finning'

 

Next steps

Stakeholder consultations on the proposed revisions to the MSC Fisheries Standard will be held in mid-2021.

We will release a draft Standard in early 2022 and all stakeholders will have an opportunity to review the draft before any final decisions are made by our Board.

Sign up to our Fisheries Standard Review mailing list to receive updates about the review, engagement events and consultations.

 

Illustration of Squalus Acanthias (Spiny dogfish)

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