Dean Russell – 2022 Speech on the Sharks Fin Bill

The speech made by Dean Russell, the Conservative MP for Watford, in the House of Commons on 15 July 2022.

I wanted to speak in this debate to show my support for the Bill. It is such an important Bill to get through, and I hope it will proceed rapidly.

I will not speak for too long, but I noticed this morning, when I was double-checking the speeches for today, that this week I have been listening to “Jaws” on Audible as I drive in to Parliament every day. That is probably because of my huge respect for the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees), who is such an incredible campaigner and constituency MP; clearly she must have had an effect when we talked about the subject previously. I raise that not so much for humour, but because when we look at people’s assumptions about sharks, they are usually very wrong and often come from a perspective of what is in the mainstream media. Books such as “Jaws” are phenomenal, and the film was brilliant too, but they had an impact on popular culture and, rightly or wrongly, on how we view sharks.

Sharks play some incredible roles within the sea. The idea of cutting off the fin of such a beautiful creature as a way to make money, allowing it to effectively drown or die from not being able to move, is abhorrent. Never in a million years would we think it would be okay to do that to any other animal. We would not cut the legs off a sheep or cow so that we could eat just those parts, and then leave it to die in incredible pain.

These are majestic creatures who serve a role within the sea and the ecosystem. I understand that culturally there are those who eat shark fins, but this Bill will solve the issue by ensuring that that abhorrent act comes to an end. I know my colleagues have given some incredible statistics, but I will mention one that I found. I hope I am not repeating this, but it staggered me, and I had to read it a few times to check I was not wrong. If hon. Members do not mind, I will read it out so that it goes into Hansard:

“It is not known exactly how many sharks are killed or wounded each year by the practice of finning. The most recent, reliable estimate of the number of sharks killed worldwide by finning was around 97 million in 2010, within a broad range of between 63 million and 273 million. An earlier estimate put the figure at 73 million in 2006.”

If I have understood that correctly, it is an incredible number, especially if we remember that every one of those sharks is a majestic creature that has had its fins cut off and been left to drown and drop to the ocean floor, no doubt for others to come in and have a feeding frenzy.

The Bill says clearly that it will be prohibited

“to import shark fins, or things containing shark fins, into the United Kingdom as a result of their entry into Great Britain”,

or,

“to export shark fins, or things containing shark fins, from the United Kingdom as a result of their removal from Great Britain.”

Effectively, it aims to stop the import of fins on their own and prevent this abhorrent act.

I will leave it there, but I wanted to stand for a moment and say that this is an incredibly important and humane Bill, and I know that is in line with the way the hon. Member for Neath acts and works within this place.