Spain’s shark fishers fail eco-friendly test

In the wake of the news that Spain is the world's largest exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong, environmentalists warn that Europe needs to tighten up its rules on fishing of the animal.

Spain's shark fishers fail eco-friendly test
The European Commission wants to end the practice of 'finning', or catching sharks only to cut off their fins for use in soup. Photo: Australian Customs/AFP

"The problem is not so much that Spain is the number one exporter of shark fins to the Chinese city," Alex Bartoli of Shark Alliance told The Local.

"The issue is that Europe needs to tighten up its rules regarding both shark fishing and finning."

Finning is the practice of capturing sharks, cutting off their fins and then releasing them into the ocean where they die from suffocation or fall victim to predators. Alternatively, the animals are brought back to shore and the fins are removed there.

The fins are used to make the Chinese delicacy shark fin soup.

Hong Kong is the destination for half of the world's shark fin market, El Mundo reported on Friday.  

Bartoli told The Local that Europe´s anti-finning law of 2003 needed further strengthening as on-board finning still occurred.

In November 2012, European Commission deputies overwhelmingly voted in favour of a proposed new law which it said means "EU vessels fishing anywhere in the world will have to land sharks with the fins still attached".

The introduction of the new law will effectively put a stop to finning.

Bartoli said the new rules were yet to be approved by the continent's fisheries ministers but he hoped this would be done "as soon as possible".

The Shark Alliance spokesman also said that the European Union needed to draw up tougher rules on the fishing of the blue shark and the porbeagle, the two most widely fished species in Spain.

He said there were currently no limitations on capture of these animals in terms of both total hauls and the size of the individual animals fished.

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Green Party leader: ‘Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament’

Per Bolund, joint leader of Sweden's Green party, spoke for thirteen and a half minutes at Almedalen before he mentioned the environment, climate, or fossil fuels, in a speech that began by dwelling on healthcare, women's rights, and welfare, before returning to the party's core issue.

Green Party leader: 'Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament'

After an introduction by his joint leader Märta Stenevi, Bolund declared that his party was going into the election campaign on a promise “to further strengthen welfare, with more staff and better working conditions in healthcare, and school without profit-making, where the money goes to the pupils and not to dividends for shareholders”. 

Only then did he mention the party’s efforts when in government to “build the world’s first fossil-free welfare state”. 

“We know that if we want welfare to work in the future, we must have an answer to our time’s biggest crisis: the threat to the environment and the climate,” he said.

“We know that there is no welfare on a dead planet. We need to take our society into a new time, where we end our dependency on oil, meet the threat to the climate, and build a better welfare state within nature’s boundaries, what we call a new, green folkhem [people’s home].” 

He presented green policies as something that makes cities more liveable, with the new sommargågator — streets pedestrianised in the summer — showing how much more pleasant a life less dependent on cars might be.  

He then said his party wanted Sweden to invest 100 billion kronor a year on speeding up the green transition, to make Sweden fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

“We talk about the climate threat because it’s humanity’s biggest challenge, our biggest crisis,” he said. “And because we don’t have much time.” 

In the second half of his speech, however, Bolund used more traditional green party rhetoric, accusing the other political parties in Sweden of always putting off necessary green measures, because they do not seem urgent now, like a middle-aged person forgetting to exercise. 

“We know that we need to cut emissions radically if we are even going to have a chance of meeting our climate goal, but for all the other parties there’s always a reason to delay,” he said. 

“We are now seeing the curtain go up on the backlash in climate politics in Sweden. All the parties have now chosen to slash the biofuels blending mandate which means that we reduce emissions from petrol and diesel step for step, so you automatically fill your tank in a greener way. Just the government’s decision to pause the  reduction mandate will increase emissions by a million tonnes next year.” 

The right-wing parties, he warned, were also in this election running a relentless campaign against the green party. 

“The rightwing parties seem to have given up trying to win the election on their own policies,” he said. “Trying to systematically push out of parliament seems to be their way of trying to take power. And they don’t seem above any means. Slander campaigns, lies, and false information have become every day in Swedish right-wing politics.” 

He ended the speech with an upbeat note. 

“A better, more sustainable world is possible. There is a future to long for. If you give us a chance then that future is much closer than you think!”

Read the speech here in Swedish and here in (Google Translated) English.