Campaigners have welcomed moves by the European Parliament to end "cruel and wasteful" shark finning by voting to close loopholes in the ban on the practice.
Shark finning, which is driven by demand for shark fin soup in Asia, involves cutting the fin from the shark, with the rest of the fish often discarded back into the sea still alive.
The EU has previously banned shark finning, but loopholes allowed permits for fishermen to cut fins from sharks on board ships and land them separately, according to a ratio which enabled them to land more fins than they had bodies for. This meant undetected finning could be taking place and made it hard to monitor if protected species were being caught as only their fins might be landed.
The vote saw an overwhelming majority of members of the European Parliament back closing the loopholes so that all sharks caught by EU fleets must be landed with their fins naturally attached.
Sandrine Polti, EU shark policy adviser for the Shark Alliance, said the vote was a great day for sharks and a positive step forward in the sustainable management of threatened shark populations.
"Parliament's vote represents a major milestone in the global effort to end the wasteful practice of shark finning," she said. "It's a really great day, and a very good and important step that the EU has accomplished."
She congratulated fishery ministers and the MEPs for supporting a stronger ban, and said the Shark Alliance groups looked forward to securing other safeguards for sharks, including domestic and international catch limits to stop exploitation. She said: "The work still needs to continue, we're still looking for management plans and protection for the most vulnerable species."
Humane Society International (HSI) EU director Joanna Swabe said the organisation was thrilled that an overwhelming majority of MEPs rejected attempts to maintain the loopholes.
"The Fisheries Committee rapporteur, Maria do Ceu Patrao Neves, and her supporters had been intent on trying to maintain the status quo loophole by continuing to allow special permits to freezer vessels for shark fin removal on board vessels.
"This would have been disastrous for shark protection not just in EU waters but worldwide. HSI commends the European Parliament for defending sharks against the cruel and wasteful practice of shark finning."