A fishing boat from Galicia has been impounded in the Republic of Ireland after its crew were accused of ‘cutting the fins off sharks’. The Virxe da Blanca (‘Virgin in White’) is being held off the port of Castletown in the south of the country after an inspection of its practices led authorities to believe the fishermen were guilty of ‘finning’.
This is illegal in Europe, although common-place in east and south-east Asia, where sharks are caught, their fins removed and the remainder of the creature is thrown back in the sea. The fins – considered a delicacy, especially in China – are then typically made into soup.
In the case of the Virxe da Blanca, which has passed every single inspection up to now, the fishermen say they were acting in accordance with EU norms: after catching Blue Sharks (Prionace Glauca) and whilst cleaning them for future sale, the crew cut off the ‘anal fins’, which are located exactly where the name suggests.
The fishing industry does not consider these ‘fins’; rather, an ‘attachment’ or ‘appendix’, because they are very fragile and do not serve the same purpose as the ‘main’ fins.
Sergio López of the Fishing Producers’ Organisation (OPP) in Lugo, which the boat – based in Burela – belongs to, says all previous inspections of the Virxe da Blanca’s Blue Shark-catching practices have been signed off as legal, and believes the vessel has been impounded due to a ‘misunderstanding’.
According to López, the Secretary-General for Fishing has already written to port and fishing authorities, and is hoping the issue will be ‘satisfactorily cleared up’ very soon.
And Spain’s industry for fishing says it is waiting to hear back from its counterpart in Ireland, but assures that the crew has not been formally accused of any offence against EU regulations.
The 13-strong multi-national crew, of whom three are from Galicia, used to fish off Spain’s northern coast catching white tuna, known as Bonito in Spain and a popular dish in fish restaurants along the Cantabrian Sea regions, but were experiencing disappointing results from their trade and decided to branch out internationally two years ago.