Air Pacific, Asiana and Korean Air vow to halt shark fin shipments
Approximately 72 million sharks are killed each year and 10,000 tons of fins are traded through Hong Kong
Impact of large corporations taking a stand is huge, says Hong Kong-based Shark Rescue
Three more Asia-Pacific based airlines have announced plans to ban shark’s fin cargo from their flights.
Fiji’s national carrier and South Korea’s Asiana and Korean Air are the latest to promise to halt shipments of shark fin and shark-related products from unsustainable and unverified sources.
Acting CEO of Air Pacific – soon to rebrand as Fiji Airways – says the move is the result of a month-long review of its freight policies relating to shark products.
“We believe a ban on the shipment of unsustainably sourced shark fins is the right thing to do, and have implemented this policy effective immediately,” Aubrey Swift said in a statement released Monday.
“We will now work with conservation partners and the fishing industry to prepare and implement policies and processes that will ensure future shipments are sustainably sourced.”
The shark fin trade
Shark finning thrives on Hong Kong rooftops
Korean Air made its announcement of the change in policy last week.
“Previously, Korean Air carried shark fin only under the condition that a valid CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit was fully obtained by the customer from the related national management authority,” the airline said in a statement.
“However, recently there has been a series of global movements calling to ban the carriage of shark fins. In view of these movements and in order to support the global call of protecting endangered shark species, Korean Air has recently reviewed its policy to stop the carriage of shark fins.”
Lee Hyomin, a spokesman from Korean Air rival Asiana, told CNN the airline has already banned shark fins from its flights as well.
Success for anti-shark fin campaigns
The announcement by Air Pacific – which in two days will officially relaunch as Fiji Airways – comes in the wake of criticism of its earlier shark fin shipments to Hong Kong, the world’s biggest market for the controversial product.
Campaigns highlighting the cruelty and devastation stemming from the practice continue to gather pace in the region. Approximately 72 million sharks are killed each year and 10,000 tons of fins are traded through Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific bans shark’s fin cargo flights
“Bans such as the ones taken by the airlines are an important step in the right direction,” Ran Elfassy, director of Hong Kong-based Shark Rescue, told CNN.
“The supply chain of shark products involves many players and the chances are good that traders will move to other carriers. But each disruption adds inefficiency and added cost to the transport, hopefully adding strong pressure to end the trade.”
Prominent hotels and restaurants in the city have been publicly striking shark fin from their menus, while Hong Kong’s main carrier Cathay Pacific also announced a ban on shark’s fin cargo last September.
Shark Rescue’s Elfassy says the impact of these large companies stepping up to ban shark fin is huge.
“When hotels like the Peninsula or airlines like Cathay Pacific take a stand to do what’s right, it sends a message that being socially responsible is good business,” he says.
“It also means these organizations who reach millions of customers every year can be major contributors for doing good. Moreover, it validates what the grassroots groups have been saying all along.”
Last month, Air New Zealand also agreed to stop flying shipments of shark fin to Hong Kong.
The decision came about after the New Zealand Shark Alliance revealed the airline’s shipments in local media.
“Air New Zealand has taken the decision to suspend the carriage of shark fins while we undertake a review of the issue,” Air New Zealand spokesperson Andrew Aitken told CNN last month.
Though such bans prove that the issue is taking root not just at the dinner table but also in boardrooms, more governments in Asia need to follow suit says Jerry McLean, director and co-founder of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation.
“Consumers’ attitudes are shifting against consuming shark products and many states have banned it including Brunei,” he tells CNN.
“Asia’s governments need to step up and echo the attitudes of their populace. Hong Kong plays a crucial role in this, as it accounts for a little over 50% of the global trade. But so far Hong Kong hasn’t even followed China in banning it at government banquets.”
Peninsula Hotels group bans shark’s fin from menus
CNN’s Frances Cha contributed to this report.