India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has issued a ‘fins naturally attached’ policy requiring fisheries to land sharks in coastal states with their fins intact. The policy is a strong tool in the fight to end shark finning, a cruel practice that occurs when fishermen catch sharks, cut off their fins and throw the still-living animals back into the water where they die slow and painful deaths.
Recent studies cite India as the world’s second-largest shark catching nation. Indian fishermen target and catch sharks primarily for their meat; however, they do export fins from sharks they catch. Additionally, fishermen on foreign vessels in or just outside of Indian waters have been reported to engage in shark finning.
Humane Society International/India first began dialogue with the Ministry to highlight the need for shark conservation measures through a joint initiative with one of India’s largest fishing communities, the Association of Deep Sea Going Artisanal Fishermen. Leading conservation groups C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, Wildlife Protection Society of India, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations, World Society for Protection of Animals India and Researchers for Wildlife Conservation India supported HSI’s initiative and also appealed to the Ministry to adopt a fins naturally attached policy.
The following groups issued statements applauding the Ministry’s action and urging coastal state governments to adhere to the policy:
C. Samyukta, wildlife campaign manager for HSI/India said: “We are overjoyed at India’s decision to adopt a fins naturally attached policy, which experts worldwide agree is necessary to protect sharks from the cruelty of finning. Humane Society International has been campaigning hard to see this policy enacted, and we are delighted authorities have taken this crucial step.”
Belinda Wright of WPSI said: “This is a commendable step towards ending the barbaric practice of finning and for enforcing our laws concerning protected shark species. Given the perilous status of many shark species, we urge the state governments to act quickly and work to enforce the policy.”
Nandita Krishna, Honorary Director, CPREEC said: “We congratulate the Ministry on this landmark decision. Shark conservation, which is now a growing global concern, requires implementable solutions such as the fins attached policy to end the loss of large numbers of shark populations. We hope the policy provides a strong deterrent to the cruel and wasteful practice of finning that leaves numerous sharks to die a slow and painful death when they are discarded back into the ocean after their fins are harvested. We hope the state governments shall be prudent and act expeditiously in enforcement of the policy.”
Bhanu Sridharan of RWC said: "The fins attached policy will ensure better monitoring of shark fishing in India, and end the capture of endangered shark species in Indian waters. We hope the Ministry and local authorities will now ensure stringent enforcement of this rule, particularly at landing sites. In the long term, it is crucial for the Central Government to also develop an effective mechanism for preventing illegal foreign fishing vessels from engaging in shark finning in Indian waters, as this is detrimental to marine biodiversity and to the livelihoods of Indian fishing communities.”
Gajender Sharma of WSPA said: “We appreciate the Government of India taking this positive step to protect sharks by adopting the fins naturally attached policy. It’s now important that this policy is fully enforced to safeguard the welfare of sharks, and to end the inhumane practice of finning in India. This will also provide sharks with a fair chance of survival, which in turns helps to maintain a balanced marine ecosystem.”
- Sharks are apex predators vital to a well-functioning marine ecosystem. Shark populations cannot sustain current slaughter rates.
- Unlike other fish species, sharks produce few pups, and thus, many species are endangered and/or threatened due to the fin trade.
- India is one of the largest exporters of shark fins in the world.
- Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year to meet the demand for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy and the primary cause of the decimation of shark populations worldwide.