Richard Lochhead named Britain's 'Shark Champion'

IT MUST rank as one of the most unusual accolades awarded to a Scottish Government minister.

At an Edinburgh ceremony yesterday, Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochhead was named Britain's "Shark Champion" in recognition of Scotland's new ban on shark finning – cutting off fins and discarding the body at sea. The award, in the form of an engraved glass, was made by conservation organisation the Shark Trust following the introduction of the ban on fishermen removing fins from sharks while their vessels are at sea, which came into force in Scottish waters on 1 January.

Ali Hood, the director of conservation at the Shark Trust, praised the Scottish Government's stance.

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She said: "This award to Mr Lochhead and the Scottish Government is the first of its kind to policy makers and reflects their decisive action in addressing the issue of shark finning."

She added: "There is a great diversity of sharks in Scottish waters, such as the basking shark, spurdog, porbeagle and deep water species such as the black-mouthed cat shark, but I must stress that Scottish vessels have not been finning sharks since 2003, or even prior to that."

Mr Lochhead last year condemned what he described as a "barbaric, cruel and wasteful activity" when he announced the ban. Only foreign-owned and operated vessels had been participating in the practice in Scottish waters and the ban was supported by the Scottish fishing industry.

Mr Lochhead said the award was "a tremendous honour".