BRUSSELS - Stepping in to save endangered sharks, the European Commission called Monday for a full ban on shark finning at sea, the practice of slicing off the fins and throwing the body overboard to drown.
Asia's taste for shark fin soup is viewed as a key threat to sharks, with marine protection groups saying up to 73 milllion sharks are killed annually to satisfy demand for the delicacy.
EU nations combined account for the second-largest share, with 14 percent of the world's catches.
In a proposal that must be adopted by the parliament and 27 member states before becoming law, the commission called for all vessels fishing in EU waters and EU vessels fishing anywhere else "to land sharks with the fins still attached."
"We want to eradicate the horrendous practice of shark finning and protect sharks much better," said Europe's fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki.
Slow to grow and with very few young per birth, sharks are exceptionally vulnerable with several dozen species threatened with extinction.
"The EU includes some of the world's major shark fishing nations -- Spain, France, Portugal and the UK," said conservation group, the Shark Alliance.
Image: Alpha / via Flickr